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  • Writer's pictureHealthwatch Wokingham

Union urged to clarify that life preserving care will be maintained during strike action

Following reports that life-saving cancer care could be affected by strike action. Healthwatch England have written to the RCN asking for the issue to be clarified.


Letter to Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing

Dear Pat Cullen,

As the statutory health and care champion for the public and patients, Healthwatch England is writing to you following concerns raised by England’s chief nurse last night that some chemotherapy or other life preserving treatments are not included in derogations negotiated locally by some RCN members and hospital trusts for the first phase of nursing strikes on 15 and 20 December.

We are seeking reassurances from you that life preserving care will be maintained during strike action and that the RCN will work with local branches to ensure they uphold the commitments to patient safety you have publicly made.

Patients have told the network of local Healthwatch throughout England that they recognise the unprecedented pressures that NHS staff have been under, particularly through the Covid pandemic and the growing winter pressures.

However, news reports this morning of patients being denied life preserving care will be extremely worrying to the public.

Just as we have urged NHS England and NHS trusts to issue timely and full communications in order to maintain public confidence in the safety of NHS services during strikes, we now call on your union to take immediate steps to assure the public that nurses will continue to provide a consistent approach to protecting life-preserving care on strike days. We believe these steps should include the RCN:

  • Making a public statement ahead of tomorrow’s first day of action about derogations covering life preserving care, including time-sensitive cancer care;

  • Working with local RCN branches to ensure they are following RCN principles and industrial action legal rules.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet or speak with you about our calls and am available at short notice today.

Yours sincerely, Louise Ansari National Director, Healthwatch England

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