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Urgent surgery ‘may be postponed’ by nurses’ strikes, say NHS bosses

Hospitals may not be able to provide key elements of healthcare such as urgent surgery, chemotherapy and kidney dialysis during the forthcoming strikes by nurses, NHS bosses have said.

Trusts may also have to stop discharging patients, postpone urgent diagnostic tests and temporarily withdraw services to people undergoing a mental health crisis.

Executives have been warned that industrial action by nurses in their pay dispute with the government could mean that a range of important, and in some cases time-critical, services to seriously ill patients may have to be scaled back or suspended altogether.

NHS England bosses have raised that possibility in a letter sent on Monday to hospitals and other care providers ahead of crunch talks with the Royal College of Nursing later this week. At that meeting they will try to agree what areas of care will be hit on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December, and which will continue as normal because they are covered by “derogations” – agreed exemptions to the action.

The letter sets out a list of 12 areas of care and some non-clinical activity in hospitals, such as food supply, which could be affected if agreement is not reached with the nurses’ union.

Eight of those involve direct patient care, three involve support services in NHS trusts and the other involves “system leadership and management to oversee safe care” on strike days.

NHS England’s letter sets out 10 other types of vital care, mainly involving life or death scenarios, headed “derogations not needed”, which they hope to agree with the RCN to go ahead as normal.

These include A&E care, services in intensive care units and emergency operating theatres as well as maternity services, including the delivery of babies, psychiatric intensive care, time-critical organ transplants and palliative and end of life care.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of NHS England has insisted patients will not have procedures cancelled at the last minute due to the nurses’ strikes, but warned some care would have to be delayed.

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Source: The Guardian, 28 November 2022


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