Nursing staff in half of England’s hospitals, mental health, and community services have taken strike action, causing major disruptions to NHS services. The walkout began and will continue until midnight on Monday, with NHS officials warning that services will be severely affected.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called this unprecedented strike action, marking the first time its members have walked out of all areas, including intensive care. The RCN has agreed to some safety-critical mitigations during the strike period, allowing certain members and regional transport teams to work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), pediatric intensive care units (PICUs), and adult ITU and Critical Care Units. This will provide direct patient care to preserve life-and-limb only, with a ratio of approximately 1:2, depending on patient acuity.
The safety-critical mitigations also permit some nursing staff to work in Emergency Departments to provide life-and-limb care in major trauma and resuscitation. However, this is not a full derogation to allow EDs to work in a normal way.
The strike action by nursing staff comes amidst an ongoing dispute with the government over pay, working conditions, and the recruitment and retention of staff. The RCN has called for a 12.5% pay rise for its members and has criticized the government’s proposed 1% pay increase as insufficient.
The strike action has been met with mixed reactions from the public, with some expressing support for the nurses’ demands while others have voiced concern over the impact on patient care. The NHS has advised patients to seek alternative healthcare services wherever possible during the strike period.