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Key role for senior nursing staff in strike contingency plans


Senior nurses are preparing to step into the breach and provide extra support to nursing teams during strike action by junior doctors due to take place from next week.

The first in a series of strikes announced by the British Medical Association will affect emergency care only, starting at 8am on 1 December and lasting 24 hours.

“Some clinical nurse specialists will cancel their clinics to provide support in other areas”

Trust spokesman

Full walk outs are also planned for December 8 and December 16.

On Wednesday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had agreed to talks through the conciliation service Acas, after initially refusing when the strike ballot results were revealed last week.

However, doctors’ leaders have so far said the industrial action will go ahead in spite of the talks.

In the meantime, NHS England has asked trusts to put together contingency plans to protect patients and ensure services can continue to operate safely.

These are likely to involve more senior nurses on duty, including specialist nurses cancelling clinics to provide extra support, Nursing Times has learnt.

Plans may also include implementing Hospital at Night-style arrangements – designed to ensure appropriate cover by multi-professional teams – during day shifts.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has issued advice to members saying they should go to work as normal, but must not do any tasks they are not qualified for.

Nurses should not do voluntary overtime nor do bank or agency shifts to cover the work of striking colleagues, the college told its members in advice issued earlier this week.

“It is the employer’s responsibility to plan appropriate cover,” said the RCN guidance. “They will have had sufficient time to take appropriate steps for staff cover, staff safety and patient safety.”

Nurses should report any difficulties or concerns in delivering care to their manager immediately, the RCN added.

Nurses who are due to be on leave over strike days may be asked to cancel their time off but trusts cannot force them to do so.

“Each trust will be doing their own different thing, which may include bringing in staff”

NHS England

It will be up to individual trusts to decide on their approach to holiday. “Where annual leave is pre-booked this will be the subject of negotiation,” according to official sources.

Trusts have been in discussion with local BMA branches and may look at providing “different models of care in different places based on risk assessments”, the sources added.

Many trusts approached by Nursing Times said they were still finalising their contingency plans.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said it would be cancelling most non-urgent operations and a “significant number” of outpatient clinic appointments due to take place during the industrial action.

“We are currently assessing the expected impact of the industrial action on other staff groups,” said a trust spokesman.

“Nurses will not be asked to undertake any additional duties which would be inappropriate for them to carry out,” he said. “Some clinical nurse specialists will cancel their clinics to provide support in other areas.”

“It is the employer’s responsibility to plan appropriate cover”

RCN guidance

NHS England has said it expects trusts to make their contingency plans based on local circumstances and demand, with an emphasis on maintaining patient safety.

“Each trust will be doing their own different thing in different ways, which may include bringing in staff including locums,” one official from the national commissioning body told Nursing Times.

“They can’t put a moratorium on leave, so if people are booked in for leave they can have their leave and trusts will have to work out what cover they will need for those people who are away,” said the official.

They said: “NHS England has asked trusts to put measures in place to mitigate any potential impact the industrial action junior doctors take. Trusts will need to assure us they have contingency plans in place to ensure services are safe whether that’s GPs or nurses or others.

“Clearly there is going to be an impact and we are trying to forewarn people and patients by saying help us to help you – if you can avoid those days please do. We don’t want people hanging around in waiting rooms and so on – it’s just common sense,” they added.


Readers' comments (8)

  • RCN not said we come out in support of the Dr's then? Just martyr-ishly hold the fort...

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  • It is high time that Nurses followed them out on strike

    If we do not fight them now we will lose and not have the opportunity to fight back at a later date

    The people in charge are repressive and seek only to exert more control and replace the NHS with private interest and their own greed

    We should not help the tories by covering striking colleagues who have the bravery to make a stand

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  • I suspect this is only the beginning and I suspect others do to. I think it will spread amongst other professions and April will be crunch time. The government and regulators are getting desperate to keep control and are getting more tyrannical as they start to lose and so sow their own seeds of destruction. In that respect it actually starts to makes me feel better. Keep the faith people.

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  • They are starting with the Drs because they thought they wouldn't put up much of a fight. Then when they took unsocial hours from all of the lower paid staff ie the nurses, then they would point out that the Drs are not on unsocial hours and what could we say? This is the opportunity to stand up. If only we could stop fighting amongst ourselves. But since that I'll never happen, I'm headed for USA where nursing is respected and we'll remunerated.

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  • Have any other union said they will be striking too?
    Secondary strikes can't happen, but nothing to stop colleagues showing support in their own time, and only work to limits of their competencies and time.
    If goverment have their way, no new nurses will be trained in UK + existing nurses being tempted to go abroad where pay is better, like Scotland ;) ;p +/or further.
    Doctors already know theyve got highly transferable skills + prepared to work abroad.
    Nurses also have very transferable skills. Some nurses are already switching to supplement income with agency work. Might see in future nurses doing 50:50 NHS:Agency hours before taking plunge to where there is appropriate remuneration.

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  • So the RCN say its illegal to have more than 6 on a picket line, thats guidance not law, how many other errors can they make?

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  • The problem starts to happen when nobody cares for what legal strike means. Look to the Union Act Bill. If I read right Arm bands to be worn by those on strike and report to the police! What does that mean to you? On that day such a bill is past we're are all in for trouble - I suspect it will encourage strike. Look to history when this last happened. This is what seniority are really worried about and so should we all.

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  • ie - nurses are seen as a waste of money but when the stroke occurs amazingly the nurses are seen as needed

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