Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

NHS cancer care will not be disrupted by nurses’ strike action

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Health unions are obliged to ensure “life-preserving care” is maintained despite coordinated strike action days before Christmas.

NHS staff involved with chemotherapy, dialysis and critical care units will be exempt from the co-ordinated strike action later this month.

Neonatal and paediatric intensive care patients will also be unaffected when members of The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) walk out on 20 December.

The Government and union representatives have reportedly met to discuss how to “avoid loss of life”.

The unprecedented day of industrial action could see 100,000 nurses, ambulance workers and hospital staff strike at the same time over a row over pay and conditions. 

This would leave NHS bosses struggling to keep even the most basic services running to standards that patients would expect, with many reduced to “Christmas Day” levels of staffing.

The RCN has released a list of trusts impacted by the historic action, with 44 out of 219 NHS trusts in England voting in favour of walkouts on December 15 and 20.

There are concerns that thousands of operations and appointments could be cancelled because of this.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the threat of strike action in the NHS “very regrettable”

Pressed on whether he is concerned about the impact of the disruption, Mr Sunak said the NHS has “very robust contingency plans” in place to ensure care continues.

But he urged unions to “sit down and talk” with employers to “find a way through this”.

He said: “It’s very regrettable that we are seeing the threat of strike action.

“We’ve accepted all the recommendations of the independent bodies on pay, who balance the competing needs and make sure that the awards are fair for taxpayers and workers.

“The Government has accepted those and people need to keep talking to find a way through.”

Ambulance workers in three unions voted to strike over pay and concerns about staffing levels.

More than 11,000 ambulances spend over an hour queuing outside hospitals every week, figures have revealed.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he could not “in all honestly” pledge to deliver nurses’ pay demands if he was the health secretary, but stressed he would be “prepared to negotiate”.

Rail workers, teachers, security guards handling cash, cleaners, porters, driving examiners, airport workers, rural payments officers and civil servants are planning action that will affect every day over the festive season. 

The Government this week urged rail unions to be “altruistic” and suspend strike action over Christmas and the New Year.

Hospitality businesses hoping to recoup losses from Covid restrictions at Christmas will also be dealt a blow by the rail staff walkouts.

Members of the RMT working for Network Rail and the 14 train operating companies will strike on December 13 to 14 and 16 to 17, with a further two strikes on Jan 3 to 4 and 6 to 7.

Meanwhile Eurostar strikes will take place on 16, 18, 22 and 23 December.

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