20221215 uk nurses strike
Nurses hold signs during a strike outside St Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain. Image Credit: Reuters

London: The British government on Thursday succeeded in limiting the length of an upcoming strike by nurses, after the health department took legal action against a trade union over the dispute.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had called a 48-hour strike from the evening of April 30, which for the first time would involve staff from emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempt.

However, Britain's health department said that industrial action on May 2 would be unlawful because a vote to strike is only valid for six months after a ballot of trade union members.

Lawyers representing health minister Steve Barclay told London's High Court on Thursday that, as the RCN ballot closed on Nov. 2 last year, a strike on May 2 would be "clearly unlawful action".

The RCN did not send lawyers to the hearing.

Judge Thomas Linden ruled on Thursday that the RCN's mandate for industrial action ended at midnight on May 1, meaning its planned strike the following day would be unlawful.

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen, speaking outside court before the hearing, had said it was a "sad day".

"Steve Barclay may get a legal win today, but what he has done is he has lost the public and he has certainly lost nursing, so it is a short-term gain," she said.