North Wales health board prepares to cancel appointments as strike nears
Patients in North Wales could have their appointments cancelled as nurses’ strike action threatens to send the NHS into meltdown – with further strikes now planned affecting the ambulance service.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Welsh Ambulance Service say they are working with trade unions but have admitted appointments could be cancelled in the run-up to Christmas.
Whilst the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) plans to strike on December 15 and December 20, Unison, which also represents nurses, has not yet given a date.
With a higher number of patients admitted to hospital during the busy festive period, rising flu and COVID levels could also heap extra pressure on the health board.
Angela Wood is the executive director of nursing and midwifery for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and said the NHS would focus on essential services.
“We are continuing to work with the RCN and other trade union partners to put in place extensive procedures and processes which focus on maintaining essential services,” she said.
“Our priority is to keep patients safe during any industrial action and ensure that emergency services continue to operate.
“Patients will be contacted directly if their procedure or outpatient appointment will be rearranged. If patients have not heard from us, they should attend their procedure or appointment as planned.”
The ambulance service is already struggling in North Wales with reports of slow response times and vehicles parked outside hospitals.
Angie Lewis is the director of workforce and organisational development at the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAST) and said members of its staff were also planning to strike.
“We were aware that Trade Union partners were undertaking an industrial action ballot as part of a national pay dispute which impacts NHS organisations across the country.
“While UNISON Cymru members did not reach the required turnout in the latest ballot, we have learned that there is a mandate for strike action by GMB Union members in WAST, as well as action short of a strike.
“We are also aware of the dates for the RCN strikes, and we will be working closely with them.
“We look forward to maintaining dialogue with Trade Union partners as plans progress to ensure that the safety of our patients is maintained as far as possible.”
Helen Whyley, director of RCN Wales, said nurses were striking not only for improved pay but to try to push for better conditions for their patients.
“The decision to strike has not been taken lightly and has passed to demand change where no other solution has been possible,” she said.
“Our members have spoken on what is an incredibly difficult decision both professionally and personally. The result of this ballot shows just how much nursing staff put the safety of their patients above all else.
“Over the last few weeks of our campaign I have been overwhelmed by the support our members and the public have shown.
“I have visited hospitals and workplaces throughout Wales. I have heard first hand of nurses who are struggling to pay their household bills, of the extra hours they have worked for free to subsidise the NHS, the shifts they have gone without any breaks. They have told me of their constant worry and despair for the safety of their patients due to short staffing.
“There is currently no escape for staff, worry and guilt for their patients at work, worry and guilt for their families at home. This is not sustainable. Many have told me that they cannot continue in their beloved profession without change.
“The message is loud and clear. Enough is enough. It is time to take decisive action against a spiralling workforce crisis that is putting patients’ lives in danger and has no regard for nursing staff wellbeing.”
Unison was contacted for a comment.
By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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