NHS nurses' strike could 'overwhelm' hospitals, health chiefs warn

NHS nurses’ strike could ‘overwhelm’ hospital wards and leave patient safety in ‘precarious position’ over Bank Holiday weekend, health chiefs warn

  • Nurses will walk out of A&E, critical care and cancer wards for the first time
  • NHS Confederation says the 48-hour picket could leave wards ‘overwhelmed’

Striking nurses will put patients at risk if they plough ahead with plans to withdraw ‘life and limb’ care over this Bank Holiday weekend, health leaders warn today.

The Royal College of Nursing will order members to walk out of A&E, critical care and cancer wards for the first time, in a major escalation of industrial action.

But the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations, says the 48-hour picket from 8pm on Sunday could lead to wards being ‘overwhelmed’.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said on Monday that he will ask the courts to rule that the second day of the RCN strike is illegal, claiming their six-month mandate for action expires at the end of the first day.

It comes as the Society of Radiographers (SoR) yesterday revealed its members had voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s offer of a 5 per cent pay rise and a one-off bonus.

The result means nurses will return to the picket line for 48-hours on April 30. Pictured RCN members during a previous strike on February 6

More than 500,000 NHS appointments and operations in England have been cancelled as a result of staff striking over pay, with further disruption planned 

Some 65 per cent of those eligible to vote cast a ballot, with 80 per cent voting against the deal, making the SoR the second union with members on the NHS Agenda for Change contract to reject the offer after the RCN.

It will now formally ballot its members on whether they are prepared to strike. The union said: ‘Strike action by these staff will result in massive disruption throughout the system.’

The Royal College of Midwives will announce the result of its pay ballot today, with other unions due to announce their results later this week.

Members of Unison, the largest health union, have already voted to accept.

The NHS Confederation has urged the RCN to reconsider its escalation ‘for the sake of patients’ in the immediate term and to reinstate all the national derogations that it had in place up until this point, ‘particularly in emergency and critical care’.

It says bank holidays are already a busy time for urgent and emergency services and so ‘the absence of nurses to fill vital shifts will almost certainly place patients at risk’.

READ MORE Government will take legal action against Royal College of Nursing over planned strike 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay (pictured) said he was ‘regretfully’ applying to the High Court to declare industrial action planned for May 2 unlawful

It also means that planned care ‘will have to be scaled back even more than it usually would have been over a public holiday and the days surrounding them’, it added.

The past six months of industrial action has seen over half a million operations and appointments postponed.

Previous walk-outs by nursing staff saw exemptions put in place in areas where timely treatment of patients is vital, including in A&E, intensive care, mental health and cancer services.

The NHS Confederation has already called for the mental health derogations to be reinstated but says these alone will not be enough to protect patient safety across local services.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘While NHS leaders understand why the RCN is intensifying its stance on industrial action, they fear the absence of any exemptions to its planned strikes will put patient care in a precarious position.

‘This is particularly the case for patients who will need emergency and intensive care.

‘NHS leaders are worried that this action could lead to hospital wards becoming overwhelmed during the strike days and could even put some people off from seeking the care they need.

‘We are calling on the RCN to reinstate these vital derogations without delay.’

An RCN spokesman said: ‘Employers are responsible for maintaining safe staffing levels and we’d expect them to cancel non-urgent clinical work and elective procedures due to take place over the strike period.

‘We know this is a difficult task and there are exceptional circumstances where we would call a strike off in any hospital.’

Where will nurses strike on April 30? 

The RCN has said the 48-hour, no exceptions walkout will be held at the following NHS workplaces in England.:

East Midlands 

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust 

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust 

Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

NHS Derby and Derbyshire ICB 

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 

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust 

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust 

NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB 

NHS Mid and South Essex ICB 

NHS Norfolk and Waveney ICB 

NHS Suffolk and North East Essex ICB 

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust 

Norfolk Community Health and Care 

NHS Trust Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust 


Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust 

Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust 

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust 

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

NHS North Central London ICB 

NHS South West London ICB 

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust 

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust 

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

North West 

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust 

Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust 

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust 

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust 

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside ICB 

NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB 

North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust 

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust 

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust 

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust 

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust 

Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust 

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust 


Country Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust 

Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust 

North of England Commissioning Support (NECS) 

North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust 

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust 

South East 

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust 

Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust 

NHS Kent and Medway ICB 

NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB 

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

South East Coast Ambulance Service 

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust 

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust 

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust 

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust 

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust 

Solent NHS Trust 

South Central Ambulance Services NHS Foundation Trust 

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust 

South West 

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust 

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust 

Devon Partnership NHS Trust 

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation 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 

NHS Devon ICB (One Devon) 

NHS Dorset ICB (One Dorset) 

NHS Gloucestershire ICB (One Gloucestershire) 

North Bristol NHS Trust 

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust 

Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust 

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust 

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust 

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust 

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust 

West Midlands 

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust 

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust 

Midlands and Lancashire CSU 

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust 

NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB (BSol ICB) 

NHS Black Country ICB 

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust 

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust 

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust 

Yorkshire and the Humber 

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust 

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust 

NHS North West Yorkshire ICB 

Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust 

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust 

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 

National employers 

Health Education England 

NHS Blood and Transplant 

NHS England NHS Resolution 

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