Elderly patients ‘will be trapped in hospital over Christmas’ by NHS strikes

Unions are still negotiating local agreements with ambulance trusts over calls that will be answered during Wednesday’s strike.

However, the South West Ambulance Service has warned the public to ‘think carefully’ before calling 999 during the strike, as they may only be able to answer calls ‘where the greatest risk is. immediate for life.

The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), where members of GMB and Unite will go out, said it expected ‘operational challenges to last another 48 hours, so we advise placing 72 hours of disruption’.

A leaked letter from NWAS medical director Dr Chris Grant revealed that paramedics would not be transferring patients between hospitals, there would be no door-to-door transport services and that nursing homes would be asked to use taxis to pick up patients.

Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said the strike would “aggravate” the problem of delayed leaves. She told the Telegraph that some of her members said they have plenty of beds for patients, but have not yet been contacted by nearby hospitals.

“We should have no illusions that part of the reason we couldn’t offload smoothly [in the past] will be based on the fact that the care packages have not been put in place, so I don’t know how we can perform miracles by doing this in a few hours tomorrow, ”she said.

Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity Age UK, said there was a “crucial balance” between sending patients home before the strike and rushing discharge.

“On the one hand, the sooner someone can go home the better, especially with Christmas approaching, but on the other hand the right support needs to be in place for them, to protect them and them. to recover well,” she said. .

“We know that home care shortages are delaying discharges in many places, but hospitals must not cut corners on frail older people or they will solve one problem but create another, potentially putting older people at risk at home. they.

“Patient safety and care are at the heart of our concerns”

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said this week will be “particularly challenging for those working in emergency and urgent care”.

He added: “We continue to be very proud of the work accomplished by our teams. We do not currently provide the standards of care that we hope to provide, but at all times patient safety and care are our top priority.

“We will work tirelessly to support patients and hopefully be able to release many patients so that they can spend the Christmas holidays with their families.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has pledged to stage a new wave of tougher strikes in January if there is no movement from paid ministers within 48 hours of its members leaving on Tuesday.

Mr Dowden said ‘our door is always open to engagement with the unions’, but he maintained the official position that the RCN’s demand for a five per cent pay rise above l inflation is “simply not affordable”.

He argued that it makes ‘logical’ to stick to the recommendations of the independent NHS pay review body, as they are ‘meant to take the policy out of this’.

“I would say to people in the private and public sectors… we try to be reasonable, we try to be proportionate and we try to be fair,” he told the BBC on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

“But in return, unions must be fair and reasonable. They should call off these strikes and give people a break.

He insisted that the public could rely on ambulance services for life-threatening injuries during the strike.

But he said those with ‘less serious injuries should…seek to get to the hospital on their own if you are able’.

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