WITH talks between the NHS trade unions and health secretary Hunt due at 2pm today, in a bid to avert Thursday’s NHS strike, efforts to organise strike breaking are still underway.
The BMA has already told GPs not to strike-break but an appeal to nurses has been issued by King’s College Hospital, south London, urging them to break Thursday’s strike.
A notice posted by the hospital trust says: ‘King’s nurses – can you assist LAS during industrial action?
‘Training provided to help cover disruption on 29 January. As staff will be aware, health unions are planning industrial action on Thursday, 29 January.
‘The scale of the industrial action planned for 29 January is likely to have a significant impact on health services, with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) likely to be among the worst affected.
‘Volunteer nurses wanted
‘To ensure LAS can deliver a safe service on 29 January, we have been asked to provide support in the form of trained nursing staff.
‘Staff would need to be available for one of three shifts below;
‘Shift 1, 00:01-08.00, 29 January; Shift 2, 08.00-16.00, 29 January; Shift 3, 16.00-23.59, 29 January.
‘If this would require you doing an additional shift outside your normal working yours, you will be paid separately for it.’
The notice added: ‘The roles for which cover is required are varied, but the majority will involve helping LAS with call handling and triage.
‘We are particularly keen to hear from Practice Development Nurses, Clinical Nurse Specialists, and Matrons – however, any support is welcome.
‘Important: You do not have to be an Emergency Department nurse. Training (at Wellington Barracks, London) will be provided in advance.’
It concluded: ‘If you are interested, please speak to your line manager in the first instance. It is important we don’t compromise the services we provide at King’s. However, we must also do everything we can to support our healthcare partners in maintaining a safe service for Londoners.
‘We would ask line managers to be flexible, and do everything they reasonably can to accommodate the requests of those staff wanting to take part.’
Meanwhile, government cuts are continuing to threaten the very existence of the NHS.
The latest quarterly monitoring report by the pro-privatisation King’s Fund think tank has warned that hospitals are now stretched to the limit as the NHS struggles to cope with increasing demand for services and the unprecedented financial squeeze.
It found a 12.5% increase in waiting times last November, a 20% increase in the number of delayed discharges from hospital and cancelled operations during November–January were up by a third on the same period in 2013.
Over 40% of trust finance directors surveyed for the report say they expect their trust to end the year in deficit.
More than 60% of trusts are relying on financial support from the government, in the case of some foundation trusts, planning to draw down their reserves.
Taken together, these findings show that services are ‘stretched to the limit. With financial problems also endemic among hospitals and staff morale a significant cause for concern, the situation is now critical,’ warned the Fund’s chief economist, John Appleby.
BMA chair of council Dr Mark Porter responded: ‘That staff morale continues to be a greater concern for managers than the dire financial circumstances facing hospitals really underscores just how challenging conditions are for front-line staff and should serve as a real wake-up call.’
l York Central Labour MP Hugh Bayley has told an opposition debate in the House of Commons that York health services are in crisis due to government policy.
He said a squeeze in NHS funding overall and a health funding ‘postcode lottery’ which has left York unfairly funded, has resulted in A&E services at York Hospital ‘breaking down’ and more than 150 operations cancelled in just over a month.
Blaming a ‘£5 billion a year’ cut in the NHS budget, he said that mental health services are ‘even worse’, and a new facility to replace Bootham Park Hospital is urgently needed.
Bayley said: ‘The walk-in centre was closed two or three years ago and NHS Direct has now been closed, so it is not surprising that we face these extra pressures with hundreds of thousands of extra presentations at A&E each year.’