How will NHS cope with first nursing strike in three decades?


The chief nursing officer in England has stated that the NHS has implemented ‘very robust contingency plans’ for when healthcare workers go on strike this week, for the first time in three decades.

According to Jane Cummings, the NHS will be able to cope when midwives, ambulance staff and nurses walk out on Monday. However, she has urged NHS workers who intend going on strike to consider patient safety and refuse participation.

Her plea to staff is that they are professionals and she is aware that they will carefully consider their actions on Monday. However, patient safety is the priority and she said she knows that staff will consider this fact.

The staff who are due to strike are from six unions in England and Northern Ireland who will walk out from their posts between 7am and 11 am. This is due to a pay dispute with the UK government.

Members of the unions are asking for a 1% pay increase for all staff, but the NHS has stipulated that this will cost too much.

The Department of Health has issued warnings that hospital services may be disrupted on Monday, but may remain that way for the rest of the week as the union members who voted in favour of the strike plan to work-to-rule from Tuesday to Friday.

Emergency and urgent care, and maternity wards, will not be affected. Dentists and doctors are not participating in the strike, and these services should run as normal. The intention of the strike is to disrupt routine care, which means patient transport services may not be available and antenatal and postnatal clinics may not be operative.

Ms Cummings has issued warnings that hospitals may be busier than usual on Monday, but has asked the public to bear with them as they have robust plans which will be implemented.

The director of employment relations at the Royal College of Midwives, Jon Skewes, said a 1% pay rise for all staff was not an unrealistic request.

He said that a recent report indicated that in London alone the NHS was squandering around £384m annually on agency staff. He added that there were methods of eliminating this type of wastage and one of those ways is to treat the current NHS staff in a fair manner.

Dave Prentis, the generally-secretary of Unison, said they are aware that health workers do not have a light view of strike action and do not do it often. He said the last strike action over pay was almost 32 years ago. However, they are aware that a de-motivated and demoralised health workforce offers no benefit to patients.

Image Credit: Jim Linwood


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