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English hospitals urged to free up beds before ambulance staff strike | NHS




Hospitals in England should free up as many beds as possible to prepare for “extensive disruption” caused by the ambulance staff strikes, NHS bosses have said.

Ambulance staff in England and Wales are due to strike on 21 and 28 December.

Members of Unison, Unite and the GMB unions working in ambulance services in England and Wales are due to take part in the stoppage.

David Sloman, NHS England’s chief operating officer; the national medical director, Stephen Powis and the chief nursing officer, Dame Ruth May, issued a joint letter to NHS trusts on Friday warning that it would be a “very challenging period”.

The letter calls for patients who have completed their emergency medical care to be moved out of emergency departments to create space for new patients.

It says rescheduling urgent cancer treatment should only be considered if all other options have been exhausted and every effort should be made to maintain appointments.

They said measures should also be put in place to ensure ambulance patient handovers are kept to no more than 15 minutes.

NHS data on Thursday showed that one in six patients last week waited more than an hour to be passed to A&E teams after arriving in an ambulance. Just over one in three had to wait at least 30 minutes.

The chief executive of Cancer Research UK has said ministers risk cutting the survival chances of cancer patients and undoing two decades of progress in lowering death rates unless they resolve the NHS workforce crisis and resolve the pay row.

The Royal College of Nursing is also planning another strike next Tuesday, following Thursday’s industrial action.

Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the RCN, has accused the health secretary of hampering efforts to resolve the nurses’ pay dispute with his “macho” negotiating style.

In an interview with the Times Pat Cullen claimed Steve Barclay undervalued the work of nurses because it was a “90% female profession”, after ministers dismissed the union’s demand for a 19% rise as “unaffordable”.

Rishi Sunak is refusing to bow to pressure from health leaders and senior Conservatives, including former cabinet ministers Jake Berry and Robert Buckland, to negotiate pay with nurses to prevent further action.

Cullen urged Sunak to step in and get a grip before the situation “engulfs the NHS”.

“The resolve of these nurses have is strong and in January it will be an escalation. It will involve a longer period of time and significantly more organisations.”

The prime minister insisted on Friday that the offer given to nurses was “appropriate and fair” as they said strikes will escalate without a better pay deal.


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