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Bank Holiday Nurses' Strike Led to Thousands of Hospital Cancellations

Industrial action by nurses over recent bank holiday  resulted in 7631 cancellations in acute care in England, new figures showed .

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) staged their latest round of strike action from 8 pm on Sunday 30 April until one minute before midnight on Monday , 1 May.

Figures published by NHS England showed that the 28-hour strike led to 1589 inpatient and day care procedures that were listed for Tuesday 2 May to be rescheduled, whilst 5777 outpatient appointments for the same date had to be re-arranged .

'Significant Impact'

Charlotte McArdle, England's deputy chief nursing officer, said industrial action "has inevitably had a very significant impact for patients and staff".

The NHS data also showed that at the peak of the strike action, between 8 pm on Sunday to 7:59 pm on the bank holiday Monday, 5034 nurses joined the walkout. However, some trusts failed to report workforce figures, so the figure was likely to be higher.

The holiday weekend action was the first time that RCN members had walked out in all areas of the NHS, including in intensive care.

Ms McArdle said: "Across the NHS we have now seen more than half a million appointments and procedures rescheduled over the last 6 months as a result of strikes from staff in a range of NHS roles – and with each strike, it is becoming harder. Our staff are doing all they possibly can to manage the disruption and deliver rescheduled appointments as quickly as possible, but there’s no doubt that each round of industrial action makes it more difficult for the NHS to tackle the backlog."

Nurses to Ballot for Further Strikes

Earlier this week the Government confirmed a 5% pay rise to NHS workers on the Agenda for Change contract after enough unions supported the offer. However, the RCN, which had voted against the offer, along with the Unite union, decided on Tuesday to continue its dispute and press for a further improvement. The RCN said it planned a statutory ballot later in May to authorise further strikes, raising the prospect that nurses could continue industrial action into next winter. 

In a letter to England's Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, the RCN's general secretary, Pat Cullen, insisted that nurses wanted "an offer that matches their true value".

Commenting on the latest figures , Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "Trust leaders warned that this week's walkout by nurses and other healthcare workers this week would lead to further disruption to patient care and these fears have come to pass with more than 11,000 appointments rescheduled across hospital, community care, and mental health services." As a result, trusts were faced with the "daunting" prospect of trying to catch up with a "mountain of activity", she added.