Unions say they will only call off strikes in the next few weeks if offers are made to resolve the disputes over this year's pay settlement, but the government only wants to negotiate pay rises for next year.

With pay rises failing to keep up with double-digit inflation, nurses, ambulance staff, and rail workers are among those who have staged walk outs
With pay rises failing to keep up with double-digit inflation, nurses, ambulance staff, and rail workers are among those who have staged walk outs (Henry Nicholls / AP)

British ministers are due to meet with trade unions to try to bring an end to a wave of strike action across sectors from healthcare to transport as workers demand higher pay.

With pay rises failing to keep up with double-digit inflation, which is now around 40-year highs, nurses, ambulance staff, and rail workers are among those who have staged walk outs, with teachers also being balloted over action.

Teaching unions, who are due to announce the result of their strike ballots in the coming days, are set to meet with the education minister on Monday.

The health minister will hold talks with unions representing ambulance workers and nurses, while the transport minister will meet rail unions.

The government has called on unions to cancel strikes while it holds talks and has argued that inflation-matching pay rises will only fuel further price increases and cause interest rates and mortgage payments to go up further.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday he was willing to discuss pay rises for nurses in England, who are due to go on strike again on January 18 and 19 after walking out for two days in December.

READ MORE: Thousands of UK rail workers go on strike again

Bed-blocking crisis

National Health Service (NHS) aims to begin discharging thousands of patients into care homes and other settings in the next few weeks in an effort to free up desperately needed beds during one of its toughest ever winters.

Some patients are being treated in corridors and ambulances have been queuing outside hospitals to hand over patients to emergency wards, as doctors and nurses struggle to discharge patients amid a shortage of staff and beds.

"The NHS is under enormous pressure from COVID and flu, and on top of tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic, Strep A and upcoming strikes, this winter poses an extreme challenge," Steve Barclay, health minister, said in the statement.

Health services statistics showed that more than nine in 10 beds in hospitals were occupied in the week running up to New Year, with 13,000 beds a day taken up by patients who were medically fit to be discharged.

READ MORE: UK's nursing staff stages second walkout over pay

Extra funding for NHS

The government said in a statement it would make up to $242 million of additional funding available in England to buy short-term care places to allow patients who doctors judge have low medical needs to be looked after outside hospital and over $50 million to improve existing facilities.

The statement did not say if the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would also be putting more funds into care beds.

Barclays will address parliament on Monday to outline other measures to reduce the pressures facing the NHS.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said last week that reducing hospital waiting lists was one of his five priorities for Britain this year. He said this aim might take longer to achieve than some others.

The government has previously announced extra funding for the NHS and social care, including $600 million for patient discharges, though the opposition Labour Party said the money is yet to reach the front line and comes too late to make a difference this winter.

READ MORE: Britain braces for Christmas disruptions as mail workers go on strike

Source: TRTWorld and agencies