A Suffolk health trust boss has said some patients will face delays to their treatment when nurses strike next month.

Around 300,000 members of the Royal College of Nurses will walk out for two days - on Thursday, December 15 and Tuesday, December 20 - over a pay dispute.

The strike action will take place between 8am and 8pm on each of the days - while emergency-type care will continue.

The strikes are the first of their kind - and will involve staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the strikes will mean the region's health service will be operating with "hour by hour contingency planning".

East Anglian Daily Times:

Mr Hulme said: “We’ve been planning for the last few months in terms of putting in plans so we can protect our patients and keep them safe. 

“About 1,000 of our nurses have voted in favour of industrial action, up to and including strikes so we’ve been very careful to make sure that we can protect those emergency services. 

“We got very good at flexibility during Covid, taking staff out of more routine care like out-patients and asking them to work in the more acute areas like ITU and A&E. 

“We will be maintaining as many services as we possibly can under these circumstances. 

“People are not obliged to tell us whether or not they will be taking strike action so we won’t know until the day how many staff are going to turn up. 

“It will be an hour-by-hour contingency planning with our senior team to make sure services are safe."

Mr Hulme also conceded that although some services will be retained, some people may miss out on appointments.

He said: “What we learnt during Covid is that we’ve become very adaptable at prioritising the clinical urgency. 

“It will almost be patient by patient, looking at the specific impact on a delay on that patient’s prognosis or their clinical circumstances. 

“We have a team that will prioritise those patients. 

“Now that we have those dates on December 15 and 20 we will agree with the unions those patients that we will treat and those that sadly will be postponed."