UP to 100,000 nurses will strike for two days next month — with more action threatened.
Some 45 hospital trusts will be hit, plus 20 community, ambulance and admin groups, on December 15 and 20, the Royal College of Nursing has revealed.
It is half the number that voted to strike over pay.
Action will ramp up in January if no deal is agreed, said the RCN, which wants a 19 per cent rise.
General Secretary Pat Cullen said strikes could be averted with talks.
She said: “Nursing is standing up for the profession and their patients. We’ve had enough of being taken for granted and being unable to provide care patients deserve.”
Action will be allowed in maternity wards, intensive care and transplant clinics as long as there is a bank holiday level of service.
NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard admitted some operations will be axed, but patients will be told “sooner rather than later”.
Saffron Cordery, head of NHS Providers, said affected health trusts would do all possible to deliver care, and support staff.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The NHS has tried and tested plans to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”