Nurses will stage their first ever national walkouts over two days in the fortnight before Christmas, accusing ministers of “choosing strike action” by refusing to negotiate.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that its members will strike across England, Wales and Northern Ireland on December 15 and 20.

Thousands of patients are likely to have routine appointments and planned surgery cancelled. Urgent and emergency care will continue.

Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the RCN, said: “Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time. My offer of formal negotiations was declined and instead ministers have chosen strike action.

“They have the power and the means to stop

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