Nurses have been accused of putting patients’ lives at risk during today’s strike.
Thousands of nurses in half of England’s hospitals, mental health services and community services went on strike for 28 hours last night.
Last-minute talks between the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and NHS England have agreed to “protect life and personal care services”, with the union allowing nurses to provide a minimum staffing level for critical care and trauma.
But NHS England urged patients to expect major “disruption and delays in services” as nurses were allowed to go into emergency, intensive care and cancer care for the first time.
Chief nurse Dame Ruth May said: “These measures do not mean a return to standard staffing.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen (pictured) said on Sunday that measures had been taken to protect patients after concerns were raised about the strike’s impact on emergency services
Most RCN members will strike until 11.59pm tonight, although some have received WhatsApp messages from hospital bosses offering up to four times their normal hourly rate (pic: previous strike in April).
“Union action will continue to have a significant impact on services during the strike period and patients will face longer waits for care.
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“The public should use the NHS wisely, with those not requiring emergency care using pharmacies and 111 online as their first port of call.”
The strike began at 8pm yesterday and will end at midnight after a court ruled that a second day of action would be illegal.
Doctors are being urged by the British Medical Association to join nurses in the effort, with the number of postponed appointments from all strikes expected to reach half a million this week.
Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers, which represents hospitals, said he was “deeply concerned” about the impact of strikes on hospital services.
He said: “I think this will be the most impactful strike of any strike we’ve seen in the last six months.
“There are real concerns about the risks to patients. The RCN has responded to requests made to them to encourage staff in certain areas – our areas that look after our sickest patients.
“It is indeed very welcome and it will make the difference. But we are very concerned about the impact it will have.’
A meeting between ministers, unions and NHS leaders will take place tomorrow where NHS workers in England are expected to be offered a 5 per cent pay deal, which will be accepted by a majority of unions.
Ministers accused the RCN of “disrespecting” other unions by going ahead with today’s strike and urged members to accept the deal.
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, said last night that the impact of the nurses’ strikes “will be felt for generations to come”.
She vowed to “defend our patients and our NHS for as long as we have to”.
Striking NHS workers are holding a protest march in London today.
Unite said the protest would pass through Parliament and onto Trafalgar Square.
Crystal Leahy is an author and health journalist who writes for The Fashion Vibes. With a background in health and wellness, Crystal has a passion for helping people live their best lives through healthy habits and lifestyles.