NHS warning over disruption as strike looms

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Hundreds of patients face having operations and appointments cancelled as NHS workers walk out in a dispute over pay.

Hospital chiefs in some parts are warning the strike for four hours until 11am on Monday will hit routine surgery and consultations although they say essential services will be maintained.

Ambulance services will also be hit. Crews will remain on duty to deal with the most urgent 999 calls but response times to other calls could be longer and patient transport services for non-urgent hospital appointments have been cancelled.

Other hospitals are urging patients to attend as usual.

The walk-out by health unions will be followed by four days of action short of strike by most unions in a dispute triggered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s controversial rejection of a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff.

Midwives will take part in the action after members of the Royal College of Midwives backed a strike for the first time in its 133-year history.

The action will be followed by a national strike by civil servants on Wednesday in a separate dispute. Union chiefs yesterday said a walk-out by council workers on Tuesday had been suspended after a new offer from employers.

The unrest is the first in the NHS over pay for 32 years.

Hospital bosses in Leeds say essential services will be maintained but warn there will be disruption to routine care.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said essential services among them emergency and urgent surgery and medical care, A&E, all cancer treatments, and all emergency maternity services including antenatal visits and urgent screening would continue as normal on Monday morning.

“Over the coming days we will be contacting patients in writing, by phone and by text to let them know if their appointment has been affected. If you are not contacted during this time, please assume your appointment will go ahead as usual,” said a spokeswoman.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service said the 999 service would operate at a reduced level and response times could be hit.

Its human resource and operations director, Ian Brandwood, said: “Although our focus is on ensuring attendance at the most serious and life-threatening 999 calls, we will have a reduced workforce and there is likely to be some disruption to the emergency service and our response could be extended.”

Deputy medical director David Macklin said: “We will be carrying out additional clinical assessment over the telephone using doctors and senior clinicians in our 999 emergency operations centres to prioritise those most in need.”

Pat Campbell, director of human resources at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “All essential services, such as emergency and urgent surgery, will continue as normal. Some routine surgery and outpatient clinics have been rearranged and we have notified all patients if their appointment has been affected.”

A spokeswoman for Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it would be business as usual although contingency plans were in place. Bosses at the Calderdale and Huddersfield and Rotherham NHS trusts said patients with appointments should also attend.

David Melia, of the Mid Yorkshire NHS trust, said a “small number” of non-urgent appointments and procedures had been cancelled and there would be some disruption to outpatients appointments. “If you have an appointment scheduled during this week and have not heard from us, please assume your appointment is going ahead as normal,” he said.