By Aysu Bicer
LONDON (AA) - Health workers across the UK once again staged the biggest walkout in health service history on Monday, with tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance workers demanding fair pay amid a cost of living crisis.
"The strikes over the next two days will be at the highest intensity in our history – taking place at 73 NHS (National Health Service) trusts in England, compared to 44 in December and 55 in January," the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said in a statement.
The union said the the UK government was still rejecting demands to open formal pay negotiations that would stop nursing strikes.
Pat Cullen, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: "Your government looks increasingly isolated in refusing to reopen discussions about the 2022-23 NHS pay award. As a result, the strike action for England remains - with tens of thousands of nurses losing wages to ensure you hear their voice. It must not be in vain."
"I'm urging you to reset your government in the eyes of the public and demonstrate it is on the side of the hardworking, decent taxpayer. There could be no simpler way to demonstrate this commitment than bringing the nurse strike to a swift close," she added.
Groups of nurses also gathered in front of different health institutions in London on Monday.
Pediatric intensive care nurse Matt Smith told Anadolu that there had been no progress in the negotiations since a previous strike that took place on Jan. 18-19.
Pointing out that the service was suffering from huge staff shortages, he said: "We want to take care of patients on a daily basis in the NHS. There is a huge shortage of employees."
He noted that the 4% hike proposed by the government was not enough as it was below inflation and thus unacceptable. "We are ready to strike until we get what we want."
The head nurse at the St. Thomas Hospital in London, Kafeelat Adekunle said: "We are on strike to be heard and seen."
Noting that the previous strikes over the past two months had not produced the desired results, she said the government was "playing with people's health."
"Our patients are our priority and we want to take care of them, but the government is preventing us from doing this."
While the UK's healthcare system has always had its problems, things have lately taken a turn for the worse amid the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war, Brexit, and the tightening cost-of-living crisis.