COVID staff absences: nurses asked to cancel leave to fill gaps
Nurses are being asked to work on rest days and cancel annual leave to fill staff absences related to COVID-19, as eight NHS trusts declare critical incidents
Exhausted nurses across the UK are being asked to work on their rest days and cancel annual leave to fill staff absences related to COVID-19.
It comes as eight NHS trusts declared critical incidents, with NHS leaders raising concerns they could not safely provide services due to high numbers of coronavirus-related absences.
Some hospitals making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days, says NHS chief
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust appealed to staff to work extra hours as ‘extreme and unprecedented’ staff shortages were expected to compromise patient care.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said in a blog post that many parts of the health service ‘are currently in a state of crisis’.
‘Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave to enable them to sustain core services,' he wrote in a blog published on Monday.
‘Community and social care services, which were already massively overstretched, are at breaking point.’
RCN says employers have a duty to give nurses a period of statutory notice if leave cancelled
Prime minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the government is looking at all ways to tackle the shortfall, including ‘moving people into areas badly affected’, suggesting nursing staff could be moved elsewhere to enable hospitals to run safely amid increasing Omicron numbers.
Guidance from the RCN states that it ‘may not be reasonable’ for employers to issue a blanket ban on annual leave and any cancellation should only be in exceptional circumstances or with a local agreement in place.
It adds that employers also have a duty to give nurses a period of statutory notice if it is cancelled and the employee may be entitled to compensation if a holiday booking is lost.
Concerns for patients over staffing of Nightingale hubs
The RCN wrote to health and social care secretary Sajid Javid on Monday asking the Department of Health and Social Care for assurances on safe patient care standards amid growing pressure on nursing staff, alongside calls for further information on how the Nightingale hubs would be staffed among an already overstretched workforce.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Our members are particularly concerned on how the staffing of the Nightingale and other temporary beds may impact on their professional accountability and ensuring that delegation of any aspects of patient care does not leave them or their patients vulnerable.’
In England there were 14,210 people in hospital with coronavirus as of 8am on Monday, an increase of 5,736 when compared to the week before.
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