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48-hour nurses strike will 'significantly increase the risk to patients with cancer'

News48-hour nurses strike will 'significantly increase the risk to patients with cancer'

A 48-hour nurses strike will “significantly increase the risk to patients” – with cancer sufferers a particular worry, an NHS chief executive says. Nick Hulme, the boss of the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, also warned the public’s goodwill through industrial action is now being stretched.

The health service faces a summer of chaos after members of the Royal College of Nursing rejected a pay deal. The union announced members will walk out from 8pm on Sunday April 30 to 8pm on Tuesday May 2, affecting the May Day weekend.

They will refuse to deliver any services, including in A&E and cancer wards.

It comes despite nurses and midwives represented by Unison voting to accept the same pay offer.

There are fears future strikes by RCN members could be co-ordinated with junior doctors, who walked out for four days last week.

Mr Hulme told BBC Radio 4: “If there is a delay to cancer care, there are many people who have been waiting far too long and this will only exacerbate that risk.

“There has been a huge amount of goodwill, and that has been stretched during the action by nurses and junior doctors.”

He warned a mooted combined doctors and nurses strike would involve uncharted waters. Mr Hulme said: “It is beyond contemplation if the junior doctors and nurses co-ordinate a strike and I cannot see how we would run services safely.

“In our contingency plans to date, we have used multi-disciplinary teams to work differently and I doubt we could do this in a combined strike.”

He added: “We need the Government and the unions to get together, stop posturing through social media and negotiate.”

A senior consultant, who did not wish to be named, said: “A combined strike could bring hospitals to their knees and lead to multiple deaths.

“This demonstrates a total disregard for the lives and health of the general public. The fact this has even been contemplated demonstrates a callous and spiteful attack on the institution the doctors claim to support.”

Sir Julian Hartley, NHS Providers CEO, said it was “extremely worrying” more appointments will have to be cancelled due to strikes.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve seen over 330,000 appointments and procedures postponed as a result of industrial action that doesn’t include junior doctors’ action.”

The strikes come as the NHS is reeling from a backlog affecting more than seven million people.

A survey by the Patient’s Association found more than half of those waiting for treatment had seen appointments cancelled. Rachel Power, chief executive of the charity, said: “We are concerned about people’s safety.

“People are going to be waiting longer and that is not acceptable.”

But TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said staff shortages were putting patient at risk.

He added: “We have got 133,000 staffing vacancies alone in the NHS and another 170,000 in social care… The responsibility for risks in the health service lie firmly with the Chancellor and the PM.”

Last night, a leading think-tank hit back at junior doctors’ demands for 35 per cent pay rises.

Len Shackleton, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The Government should not agree to a pay settlement at a rate anywhere near the 35 per cent. To do so would encourage many other public sector workers to press similar claims and cost taxpayers dearly.”

And Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting called the 35 percent demands “unrealistic”.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “I can’t honestly say if I was the Health Secretary today that I’d be able to give them a 35 percent pay increase overnight.”

But he said there was still “everything to gain” from the Government “sitting around a table and negotiating”.

  • The year-long postal dispute could be over. Last night the Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union reached a “negotiators’ agreement in principle” over pay and employment terms which will now be put to workers.

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