England, Wales and Northern Ireland have started a nationwide strike, which is said to be the largest action of its kind in the history of NHS Although they will continue to provide “life-preserving” care and some urgent care, routine surgery and other planned treatment will likely be disrupted. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its members had no choice since ministers refused to reopen pay talks. The UK government said the RCN’s 19 per cent pay rise demand was unaffordable. RCN General Secretary, Pat Cullen, has called on the government to “do the decent thing,” which is resolving the dispute before the year ends.
Ms Cullen told BBC Breakfast the strike marked “a tragic day in nursing. We need to stand up for our health service; we need to find a way of addressing those over seven million people that are sitting on waiting lists, and how are we going to do that? By making sure we have got the nurses to look after our patients, not with 50,000 vacant posts, and with it increasing day by day.”
Nurses in about a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England, all health boards in Northern Ireland and all but one in Wales, will be involved in the action.
The RCN has to ensure life-preserving care continues during the 12-hour strike, according to the Union Trade Laws. Chemotherapy and kidney dialysis will run as normal, along with intensive and critical care, children’s accident and emergency and hospital neonatal units, which look after newborn babies.
Apart from this, it will be entirely up to NHS boards and trusts to negotiate services on a local level, with discussions likely to include the circumstances of some individual patients.
The biggest impact is likely to be in pre-booked treatment such as hernia repair, hip replacements or outpatient clinics.