Nurse strikes: Will patients be left counting the cost over first national walkout?

Some patients will feel the impact of the walkout. Credit: PA

So, it’s been confirmed. Nurses from the Royal College of Nursing union will go on strike in December.

For 12 hours, on two separate dates, tens of thousands of nurses will walk out. 

The obvious question is what will it mean and how will it affect patients? Nurses in emergency departments and urgent care aren’t allowed to strike so there shouldn’t be much disruption there.

Hospital trusts also tell us they have been planning for this for months, they are adept at juggling things around now since Covid and they will use what they learnt from that to ensure there are enough staff on each shift and will redeploy other nurses and clinicians to areas that need them. 

That might be so, but it doesn’t mean patients won’t be affected.

Anyone staying in hospital long term may notice a drop in care, outpatients could well have their appointments cancelled or postponed and anyone due to have routine surgery on one of the strike days will also probably be told their operation is postponed.

It doesn’t sound much but for anyone who’s been waiting for months or even years for an operation it could be another huge blow.

Credit: PA

It is also worth saying that although emergency operations and care will continue, for those patients who then go on to need a bed on a ward, that may prove difficult with no staff to look after them.

It’s probably important to say that only RCN nurses are striking and not all nurses.

Trusts can also hire in agency staff to cover those taking action so it’s hoped patients will see as little disruption as possible.

The fact is though, nurses from the RCN in England, Northern Ireland and Wales haven’t all walked out together before and we simply don’t know what sort of effect it’ll have.

At time when hospitals are running at 95% capacity, flu cases are rising and the numbers attending hospital are at record highs, this is the last thing the NHS needs.

It will effect some patient care and I don’t think there is any getting away from that.

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