NHS prepares for potential mass walkouts as RCN strike ballot closes
Trusts in England are being asked to ‘stress-test’ services ahead of possible strikes, to ensure minimal disruption to patient care and factor in winter pressures
The NHS in England has been ordered to stress-test the healthcare system ahead of possible mass strikes from nurses and other workers.
Health leaders have ordered a ‘multi-day exercise’ – dubbed Arctic Willow – to test the system’s response to simultaneous operational and winter pressures.
‘Multi-day exercise’ will stress-test services ahead of possible strike action
In a letter to local health organisations, NHS England details steps they should take as well as its preparations for potential industrial action in the health service.
Multiple trade unions, including the RCN, are in dispute over the 2022-23 pay award and balloting members on action, the letter states. ‘The NHS’s task now is to be prepared for any potential industrial action so there is minimal disruption to patient care and emergency services can continue to operate as normal,’ it adds.
NHS England instructs employers to respect workers’ rights during any strike
The letter adds that it is important that local organisations maintain ‘constructive relationships with trade unions and staff representatives’ and that the employment rights of staff are respected during industrial action.
It sets out actions to prepare for industrial action, including communicating to patients that emergency services will continue as normal and supporting chief nurses with guidance on operational activity, as well as engaging with staff taking industrial action.
The letter says integrated care boards will conduct stress-tests during the week beginning 14 November, to ensure the health service is able to cope amid multiple pressures. ‘This will seek to explore the health and social care response to multiple, concurrent operational and winter pressures,’ it says.
More detail on the exercise will be given ‘in due course’, the letter adds.
Ballots involving hundreds of thousands of NHS staff members
The RCN’s first-ever ballot on UK-wide strike action ends today, 2 November; some 300,000 members have been asked to consider taking action.
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