The four chief nurses on the NHS have written to Secretary-General of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Pat Cullen warning that patients’ lives are at risk because life-saving services are not protected when nurses are discharged on Thursday.
RCN has since agreed that staff will cover emergency services for cancer and mental health crises on strike days, but they only retained overnight staff for inpatient services.
But confidence said the executives The Independent that they were concerned that they would not be able to fill any gaps with agency staff due to RCN rules, which would exacerbate existing shortages.
A senior NHS source has claimed cancer services are not being prioritized by unions despite national agreements to protect chemotherapy treatments.
They said, “I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt because the system is so stretched and fragile right now, whether it’s strike-related or not, public sympathy would change dramatically if that happened.”
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Specialist cancer hospitals such as the Royal Marsden Hospital have been “hard hit”, sources said, with hundreds of appointments being pushed back due to strikes, while another noted that thousands of cancer treatment appointments were set to be pushed back nationwide.
The Independent He understands that unions argue that chemotherapy and cancer surgery should not proceed under bank holiday or Christmas-level staffing levels, with union representatives pushing for overnight staffing levels instead.
Psychological health It is understood that services are an area of special interest, with trusts fighting to secure agreements locally with union representatives for child and adult crisis services staff.
The Independent It reported on Monday that patients’ surgeries could be canceled the same day, while funds face staffing levels overnight.
In a message first mentioned by times On Tuesday, the four NHS chief nursing officers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland called on Ms Cullen at the RCN to allow union members to break the picket line to cover A&E services, cancer treatment and urgent mental healthcare.
He said: “We hear from our colleagues that they are concerned about the assumption, implicit by the RCN, that daytime night staff are safe.
“Ward activities during the day are very different from those at night. This decision can significantly impact the safety of patient care (for example, by affecting timely delivery of intravenous antibiotics, patient monitoring and treatment rounds). We ask that you consider these concerns.”
Since sending the letter Monday, the RCN has agreed to ensure coverage of emergency services for cancer, mental health crisis services, and staffing at the Christmas Day level for community-based services such as palliative care and urgent clinical interventions.
A spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nursing leaders are working closely with us as part of our commitment to making this jab safe and effective.
“This letter is already outdated as today we met with senior doctors and agreed on the main points. Patient safety is everyone’s primary concern.
“The public supports our campaign and knows that patients need a strong nursing workforce but right now there are record losses threatening safe care.”
On Tuesday, Ms Cullen accused the government of “hostility” after Health Secretary Steve Barclay refused to discuss nurses’ pay during a failed final meeting aimed at resolving the strikes.
The letter about nursing strikes comes as the NHS faces strikes next week from thousands of ambulance staff and other healthcare workers after unions GMB, Unite and Unison decided to coordinate strikes.
Thousands of physiotherapists also voted on Tuesday to strike, while the Royal College of Midwives confirmed members in Wales would take action but did not get the votes required for England.
Ambulance crews will leave England for two days on December 21 and 28 to support their wage claim.
Police have already refused to drive ambulances, saying they can’t handle the task on top of the “ever-increasing demands”, while the firefighters’ union has also indicated its crews won’t help.
National contingency plans include drafting military personnel to drive ambulances, but few soldiers have completed the training required to drive them under blue lights.
Alan Howson, chair of the Independent Ambulance Association, said it was unlikely that private ambulance providers would have the ability to step into NHS funds due to a lack of capacity within their own services.