NHS leaders fear patients will come to harm as cancer services are “hit hard” by upcoming nurses’ strikes.
The NHS’s four chief nurses wrote to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen warning patients’ lives are at risk due to life-saving services not being protected when nurses walk out on Thursday.
And a separate letter from Dame Cally Palmer, the national cancer director for NHS England, urged Ms Cullen to protect urgent cancer operations from strike action “to ensure a consistent and compassionate approach for patients across the country”.
The RCN has since agreed that staff will cover emergency cancer and mental health crisis services on strike days but has maintained only night-level staffing for inpatient services.
But trust executives told The Independent that they were concerned they won’t be able to fill any gaps with agency staff due to RCN rules, which will worsen existing shortages.
One senior NHS source claimed cancer services weren’t being prioritised by unions despite national agreements to protect chemotherapy treatments.
They said: “I fear that someone is going to get hurt as the system is so pressured and fragile right now, whether strike-related or not, public sympathy will shift considerably if this were to happen.”
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Source: The Independent, 14 December 2022