RCN strike: Newcastle Hospitals warns of 'major impact on services' as nurses continue walkout

Newcastle Hospitals has warned of a major impact on services as nurses in the region continue to strike over pay and conditions.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have joined the latest wave of industrial action, which started at 8pm on Sunday 30 April and will finish at midnight on Monday 1 May.

The walkout involves nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempt.

While safety precautions have been agreed to ensure staff can provide "life-and-limb services", staffing levels in wards and departments will be much lower than usual and the public has been asked to only attend A&E in a life-threatening emergency.

Newcastle Hospitals predicted a "significant impact" on services, including longer wait times and some treatments having to be rescheduled.

The minor injuries unit at the RVI will be closed during the industrial action, and health bosses have asked people with minor injuries or illness to speak to their GP, pharmacist or use the NHS 111 service.

Deputy Medical Director Dr Michael Wright said: “Our teams have been working really hard to put plans in place to safely staff our hospitals and community services in during the nurses strike, including the Bank Holiday.

“This included identifying which patients can safely go home, combining wards and postponing much of our elective work to try and reduce bed occupancy as we headed into the weekend so we could prioritise our efforts on urgent and emergency care and looking after patients on our wards.

“Where we have had specific workforce issues and concerns, we successfully applied for safety critical mitigations which were agreed in areas including emergency and critical care, the Great North Children’s Hospital and our trust-wide transplant and retrieval service.

“Please be reassured that we are doing everything we can to ensure patients are receiving safe care – we are as prepared as possible but this is still going to be an exceptionally challenging time.

“We will always be here to help those that urgently need treatment and care, in life-threatening situations, however, with high demand for services and reduced staffing levels we are expecting services to be disrupted and the public may see lengthy delays, particularly in the Emergency Department.”

If you do need medical care and it's not life threatening, contact NHS 111 online or your nearest pharmacy. Both services will refer you for further treatment should you need it.

Some local community pharmacies will be open over the holidays and they can help you if your medication is in stock. The bank holiday pharmacy opening times webpage will show which pharmacies are available and local NHS websites and social media channels will also have details of all opening hours over the holidays.

For children’s health advice you can download The Little Orange Book which covers a wide range of illnesses in children from common minor ailments including teething, constipation, and colds, through to more serious conditions.

What counts as a life-threatening emergency?

Newcastle Hospitals advises people should only call 999 or go to an Emergency Department if you or someone else has a life-threatening emergency, such as:

  • signs of a heart attack - chest pain, pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest

  • signs of a stroke - face dropping on one side, cannot hold both arms up, difficulty speaking

  • sudden confusion (delirium) - cannot be sure of own name or age

  • suicide attempt - by taking something or self-harming

  • severe difficulty breathing - not being able to get words out, choking or gaspingchoking on liquids or solids right now

  • heavy bleeding - spraying, pouring or enough to make a puddle

  • severe injuries - after a serious accident or assault

  • seizure (fit) - shaking or jerking because of a fit, or unconscious (cannot be woken up)sudden, rapid swelling of the lips, mouth, throat or tongue

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