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Cobra to discuss health strike plan

The Government is to draw up contingency plans to deal with a planned strike by health workers, even though talks aimed at averting the industrial action are set to continue.

Union leaders met officials at the Health Department last night and said they would resume on Friday.

But within hours of the talks being adjourned, it was announced that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will chair a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee today.

A Department of Health spokesman said the Health Secretary would be chairing the meeting to draw up "contingency plans" should there be a strike.

He said: "Clearly, first and foremost we want the strike to be called off. But, while talks are ongoing, the Government is rightly working with the NHS to ensure that the impact on patients is minimal."

Speaking last night, the spokesman added: "As part of that, Jeremy Hunt will chair a Cobra meeting tomorrow morning to ensure contingency plans are being put in place."

The Unison union's head of health, Christina McAnea, said: "NHS trade unions will continue to talk with the department. The industrial action planned for next week will go ahead unless a fair pay deal for NHS workers can be reached."

The industrial action remains on for next Thursday, January 29, as unions continue to criticise the Government for refusing to accept a recommended 1% pay rise for all NHS staff.

Health workers across England and Northern Ireland are due to go on strike following walkouts last year.

At Prime Minister's Question Time in the Commons, David Cameron condemned the strike threat, especially at a time of increased concern because of problems faced by hospitals in recent weeks.

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