nursing union is set to announce the result of a ballot over a Government pay offer on Friday, as around 47,000 junior doctors stage a fourth day of strike action in England.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison, which represents nurses and other health workers, have been voting on a proposed deal which includes a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year.
Voting ends on Friday and the RCN is set to announce the final result later.
An RCN spokesperson said on Thursday evening: “Voting is still open and we have no result.
“Every member is asked to vote by 9am Friday and an announcement of the final result will take place during the day.”
Unison’s ballot closes later on Friday and the result is expected over the next few days.
Leaders of both unions have recommended acceptance of the offer.
The ballots will close as junior doctors in England stage the final day of a four-day strike in an increasingly bitter dispute over their pay.
It comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors committee co-chairman Dr Robert Laurenson insisted he is “still working” while on holiday during the NHS walkouts.
But he said he is “sorry” if striking colleagues feel his absence, to attend a wedding, has undermined their cause.
Dr Laurenson made headlines by taking a holiday to attend the wedding amid the junior doctors’ strikes over demands for a full pay restoration that the Government said would amount to a 35% pay rise.
I am determined and committed to doctors and winning. Me being physically in a different location shouldn’t change anything
The 28-year-old defended his absence from picket lines after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said he was “surprised to read” Dr Laurenson was on holiday.
“I can see that you feel undermined and I am really sorry my actions have contributed to that,” Dr Laurenson reportedly wrote in an online forum.
He said he was invited to the wedding in autumn 2022, adding: “I am always responsive on my phone to the needs of my role at the BMA including being in hospital strike WhatsApp groups across the country to answer queries.
“I am determined and committed to doctors and winning.
“Me being physically in a different location shouldn’t change anything.
“I have an amazing co-chair. We have a negotiation team that doesn’t need me and has strict parameters.
“I am still in touch, still attending meetings, and still working.”
On Thursday, Home Office minister Chris Philp suggested junior doctors must suspend all strikes for the Government to consider entering talks facilitated by conciliation service Acas in a bid to end the pay dispute.
Acas said it is “well prepared and ready to help” and the BMA is urging ministers to get round the table to try to break the deadlock.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it remains open to a role for Acas but reiterated talks cannot take place until junior doctors drop their demand for a 35% pay increase and end the strike.
On Wednesday, Mr Sunak said he wanted to find a “reasonable compromise” with junior doctors.
The chairman of the BMA council, Professor Philip Banfield, said: “In the face of a constant refusal from the Health Secretary to agree to further talks and put forward a credible offer which could bring an end to the dispute, we believe that working with Acas provides the most realistic chance of a successful outcome to the negotiations.
“The BMA has no preconditions to talks and has consistently sought to negotiate with the Government.”
Hospital bosses have expressed concern about keeping patients safe as they struggle to secure cover for overnight junior doctor shifts during strikes.
The health service’s top doctor, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, has warned that the situation in the NHS will “become more challenging each day this strike progresses”.
During the strikes, staff who are still working have prioritised emergency and urgent care over some routine appointments and procedures to ensure safe care for those in life-threatening situations.
This means hundreds of thousands of appointments and operations have been rescheduled.
The BMA claims junior doctors in England have seen a 26% real-terms pay cut since 2008/09 because rises have been below inflation.