By Muvija M and Farouq Suleiman
LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) – British healthcare workers and the government have reached an agreement on a pay deal, the i newspaper reported on Thursday in what would be a breakthrough following months of strikes in the state-run National Health Service.
The newspaper said the agreement would bring an end to months of strikes among nurses and ambulance workers. It was not immediately clear if other NHS staff such as junior doctors and midwives, who have also been striking, would be covered by any deal.
The report follows optimistic comments from finance minister Jeremy Hunt earlier in the day.
The proposed offer involved a lump sum for the current financial year and a revised pay offer for 2023-24, the i reported. Announcement of a tentative deal is expected later today, the report said citing unnamed sources.
Any offer would still be put to a vote among union members working for the health service, which has been under strain from walkouts by nurses, doctors and ambulance workers for higher wages to cope with surging inflation.
In February, nurses in England paused strike action to enter intensive talks with the government, while unions representing ambulance workers also called off planned strikes after agreeing a fresh round of talks.
The government’s health department did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for a comment on the reported agreement, while trade unions representing different NHS workers also did not confirm a deal.
Before reports of a deal Unite said it expected significant movement today. It did not offer further comment after the report.
Asked about the i report, Unison said talks were ongoing.
Earlier, GMB did not respond to a request for a comment on other reports a deal was imminent. On those earlier reports, the Royal College of Nursing referred enquiries to the government.
Hunt, whose presentation of the government’s budget on Wednesday came at the same time as half a million Britons going on strikes, sounded optimistic earlier in the day when asked whether a deal with NHS staff was imminent.
“I hope so … We have engaged very productively with the NHS unions and so I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” he told the BBC.