NHS braces for nurses' bank holiday strike set to start at 8pm tonight
The NHS is preparing for nurses all over England to walk out of hospitals, mental health, and community services tonight.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are taking part in the industrial action from 8pm this evening until 11.59pm tomorrow.
NHS England has warned staffing levels for some areas of the country will be ‘exceptionally low, lower than on previous strike days’.
It estimates that the number of rescheduled appointments because of strike action is set to hit half a million next week.
The RCN initially refused to agree to national derogations – broad areas of care where staffing is guaranteed despite industrial action.
This means services that are not usually affected by walkouts, such as intensive care, may be impacted this time.
But the union granted some local exemptions last week, including at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The apparent U-turn came after the renowned children’s hospital said it had ‘serious concerns’ about patient safety during the walkout.
Chief executive Mat Shaw responded by saying he was ‘incredibly grateful’ to RCN members for the decision.
Despite this, he has not stood down the ‘business continuity incident’ previously declared as he is not yet confident the hospital will have enough staff to cover services over the 28-hour strike.
The RCN’s general secretary Pat Cullen told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that nurses had worked ‘tirelessly’ with NHS England to make sure their strike is as safe as possible for patients.
She said: ‘There are national exemptions in place for a range of services, for emergency departments, for intensive care units, for neonatal units, paediatric intensive care units, those really acute urgent services.
‘In fact, it was the Royal College of Nursing who contacted NHS England to ask for a process to be put in place so that we make sure that the strike was safe for our patients.’
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, previously told BBC Breakfast: ‘I talk to NHS leaders all the time and I have never known a period when leaders are so worried about staff morale and there is a sense of a loss of hope.
‘We have 120,000-plus vacancies in the health service. We have been waiting for years for a properly funded workforce plan, so even when these strikes are over, we still have very serious issues of recruitment, retention and of motivation in our health and care system.’
If you are seriously ill or injured, the NHS has advised that you still call 999 as usual, with non-urgent cases urged to call 111.
You can see every NHS trust which will be affected by walkouts here.
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