Wes Streeting told Laura Kuenssberg he didn't support the RCN strikes.
The shadow health secretary said the 48-hour walkout planned for the end of the month poses “a real risk to patient safety”.
Streeting said he was concerned at the Royal College of Nursing’s announcement that there would be no so-called “derogations” during the industrial action, meaning nurses involved in cancer care and accident and emergency will also take part.
The RCN announced it was intensifying its strike action after its members voted to reject the government’s latest pay offer of a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year.
On the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, Streeting was asked if he supported the strikes.
He said: “I’m really worried about it, particularly the decision they appear to have taken to remove derogations, the exemptions they put in place previously around emergency care, cancer care.
“I think that’s a real risk to patient safety. I hope they don’t feel that escalating in that way is necessary.”
Asked again if he backed the strike action, Streeting replied: “How could I? There’s a risk to patient safety. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”
“I think that’s a real risk to patient safety”
Shadow Health secretary Wes Streeting says he doesn’t support the new strikes by nurses and says he’s “particularly” worried about their plan to end exemptions for emergency and cancer care#BBCLauraKhttps://t.co/qYT7ZXn2Bppic.twitter.com/LZjJzWSXyl
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) April 16, 2023
On the same programme, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen warned that the industrial action could continue until Christmas unless the government comes up with more money.
She said: “We have strike action for the end of this month and the beginning of May. Then we will move immediately to ballot our members.
“If that ballot is successful it will mean further strike action right up until Christmas.”
Unlike the RCN, nurses who are members of the Unison union have voted to accept the government’s offer.
In an opinion piece for The Sun on Sunday, health secretary Steve Barclay warned that fresh nurses’ strikes would have a “deeply concerning” impact on emergency services and cancer care.
He called on the RCN to accept the government’s pay offer so the NHS can “get back to focusing on patients”.