Nurses’ strike to cost lives on critical wards, experts warn

Lives will be lost during the nurses’ strike because they have key technical skills that even the most experienced consultants cannot replace, an NHS adviser warns.

It will be “far more dangerous” than the junior doctors’ strike.

The action, which starts at 8pm tomorrow and finishes on Monday at midnight will, for the first time, involve nurses working with patients in life-critical circumstances.

This includes emergency departments, intensive care units, children’s intensive care, coronary care, labour and cancer wards.

The RCN said it had agreed specific “safety critical mitigations” on a trust by trust basis “to maintain safe patient care”.

A spokeswoman said: “There are no entire exemptions across the country. But we are taking reasonable and clinically urgent mitigations to protect life and limb.”

It came after Great Ormond Street Hospital in London warned it had “serious concerns over safely staffing the hospital”.

An NHS adviser, who is also a senior NHS consultant and who asked not to be named, said: “Patient safety is being put at risk. Nurses in these wards have highly technical skills and if these areas are understaffed this will lead to deaths and serious harm.

“Most doctors don’t know how to run life-saving equipment such as dialysis machines, breathing apparatus, epidurals and drips.

“This strike is far more dangerous than the junior doctors’ strike, whose work can be covered by consultants. People will be hurt, maimed and patients will die.”

Richard Sloggett, director of Future Health, which carries out research into improving the NHS, warned of a prolonged dispute.

He said: “The lack of a final agreed deal leads to further uncertainty about the length of these strikes and what happens with future disputes. These strikes could go on into the winter and beyond.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen said: “I would ask the Government to get around a table and talk.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is hugely disappointing some unions are escalating strike action, including the RCN. Its decision not to provide any national exemptions risks patient safety.”

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