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Your annual leave postponed: call for help to ease summer pressures facing NHS staff

How backlog of time off thanks to COVID-19 will add to strain on nurses and services
 nurses wearing PPE delivering patient care during the coronavirus pandemic

Backlog of time off in the NHS thanks to leave being cancelled in the pandemic will intensify strain on services, as NHS Providers appeals to ministers for help so nurses can – rightly – rest

A backlog of much-needed annual leave is among the pressures bearing down on the NHS and its staff – just as the holiday seasons starts, say NHS trusts.

NHS Providers, which represents organisations in England, said the level of pressure was similar to that experienced at the pandemic’s height in January.

The warning came in an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson and other key government figures, from NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson and deputy Saffron Cordery .

Backlog of time off in the NHS thanks to leave being cancelled in the pandemic will intensify strain on services, as NHS Providers appeals to ministers for help so nurses can – rightly – rest

 nurses wearing PPE delivering patient care during the coronavirus pandemic
Picture: Alamy

A backlog of much-needed annual leave is among the pressures bearing down on the NHS and its staff – just as the holiday seasons starts, say NHS trusts.

NHS Providers, which represents organisations in England, said the level of pressure was similar to that experienced at the pandemic’s height in January.

The warning came in an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson and other key government figures, from NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson and deputy Saffron Cordery.

Deferred annual leave in the NHS

The letter calls on ministers to provide sufficient funds to tackle pressing resource issues and states a tired and overstretched workforce is facing what is likely to be one of the most difficult winters the NHS has ever faced. It points out the health service is entering the peak season for annual leave with significant amounts of time off postponed in the pandemic now ‘rightly’ being taken.

Earlier this year the RCN said nurses to be should be given funded ‘time out’ on top of their normal holiday, given the importance of annual leave in helping nurses rest and recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Pressure on nursing staff to keep going and defer annual leave

Despite this, some staff are still being asked to delay taking time off. Earlier this month nurses and other staff at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust were asked to postpone annual leave because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton confirmed staff were struggling to get time to rest and recuperate, adding: ‘It’s really important they’re able to take some annual leave so they’re in the best possible position to cope with any further spike in hospitalisations, as well as the huge backlog for other treatments,’ she said.

COVID-19 pandemic and time off: know your rights

The government has amended the Working Time Regulations, which means nurses will be entitled to carry over any unused statutory holiday entitlement for two years. This includes staff who have not been able to take their leave due to sickness.

If you have taken annual leave and have not been paid normal holiday pay, raise the issue with your employer and ask to have the reason for this in writing.

Adapted from RCN advice

‘We’ll make sure NHS staff have everything they need’

The Department for Health and Social Care said it had provided additional funding to support health and care services throughout the pandemic.

‘We will make sure the NHS and everyone working in it has everything they need to continue providing excellent care to the public, throughout the pandemic and beyond,’ said a spokesperson.

The open letter was also sent to chancellor Rishi Sunak, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, chief secretary to the treasury Steve Barclay and out-going NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.

The NHS Employers letter in full

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