NHS nurses are striking today in a dispute with the government over pay and patient safety.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will take industrial action on 15 December and 20 December across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the first time in the union’s 106-year history.
Strikes by ambulance staff and some NHS workers in Scotland were called off after members of two unions voted to accept the Scottish government’s most recent pay deal.
What services will still be provided?
The RCN has provided a list of areas which will be “exempt from the strike action”.
These are chemotherapy, dialysis, paediatric A&E, critical care units such as intensive care and high dependency, and neonatal and paediatric intensive care.
Other services outside of these “may be reduced” to a Christmas Day or night-duty level.
Following concerns by chief nurses about patient safety, the RCN has confirmed cancer patients will get emergency and clinically urgent surgery on strike days.
Emergency cancer services will be protected – including for those with specific needs due to chemotherapy.
Protections have also been agreed for mental health and learning disability and autism services as part of an emergency response.
NHS community teams will provide palliative care and clinically urgent interventions, such as insulin – while in-patient areas will see night-duty staffing.
The head of the NHS Confederation said trade unions are committed to maintaining emergency and critical care services, and he was “reasonably confident that we won’t see severe patient harm”.
Matthew Taylor, who speaks for healthcare systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, added patients can expect a bank holiday-level of service in hospitals during the industrial action.
What if you need to go to A&E?
“Front-door” urgent care assessment and admission units – including A&E – will see Christmas Day-level staffing.
The NHS says emergency care will continue to be available across the country, and it is “really important” people come forward as normal in an “emergency or in life-threatening cases”.
Paediatric A&E is exempt from the strikes.
Anyone needing urgent care should use NHS111 online or dial 111 to be assessed, the NHS says.
But if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, emergency care should be sought in the normal way by calling 999 or attending A&E.
What if you have a hospital appointment scheduled?
Patients are being advised to attend as planned – unless the NHS provider has contacted them to reschedule.
Even if the hospital trust is affected by strikes, people should attend appointments unless instructed otherwise.
Patients will have been contacted by letter or phone call and offered a new date if their appointment needs to be rescheduled.
Will GP services be available?
Yes – GP services will be running as normal. People should attend their scheduled appointments.
What services will be directly hit?
There is expected to be widespread disruption to planned care, such as non-emergency operations and outpatient appointments.
Thousands of appointments and operations will need to be rescheduled as they are unlikely to be carried out on the day of action.
Up to 100,000 nurses are estimated to be joining the strike action, which will last for 12 hours on each day.
What other issues have been raised over patient care?
Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, and her counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have written to the RCN general secretary Pat Cullen regarding a series of concerns about safety.
They said chemotherapy is being rescheduled from the strike days at some hospitals – despite the union agreeing it would be exempt nationally.
But an RCN spokesperson said there will be derogation for emergency cancer services, adding: “Cancer patients will get emergency and clinically urgent surgery, it is not in doubt.”
Where will the strikes take place?
Not every hospital in the country will be affected by the strike action – but here is a list of those where strikes are scheduled:
• Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
• NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
• Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
• Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
• Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
• Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
• Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
• Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust
• Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
• NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
• Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
• Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
• Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust
• Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
• NHS North Central London ICB
• Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
• Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
• Health Education England
• Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Found Trust
• Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust
• Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
• The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Found Trust
• The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust
• Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
• Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
• The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
• Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
• Devon Partnership NHS Trust
• Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust
• Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• NHS Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB (BSW Together)
• NHS Devon ICB (One Devon)
• NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire)
• North Bristol NHS Trust
• Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
• Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust
• Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
• University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust
• University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
• Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
• Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust
• NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB)
• The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
• University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
• Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Yorkshire and the Humber:
• Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust
• Yorkshire & Humber NHS England
• The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
• Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
• Powys Teaching Local Health Board
• Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Headquarters
• Hywel Dda University Health Board
• Swansea Bay University Health Board
• Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
• Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board
• Velindre NHS Trust
• Public Health Wales
• Health Education and Improvement Wales Health Authority
• NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership
• Digital Health and Care Wales
• Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council
• Southern Health and Social Care Trust
• Western Health and Social Care Trust
• Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
• Business Services Organisation
• Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority
• Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service
• Public Health Agency
• Northern Health and Social Care Trust
• South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
• Northern Ireland Ambulance Service