Hospitals, schools hit by flights ban

THE ban on flights in and out of the UK looks set to have a chaotic knock-on effect for schools and hospitals in Suffolk and Essex.

With a growing number of people currently stranded abroad – including doctors and teachers, it’s anticipated that supply staff will have to be drafted in at schools and operations re-scheduled at hospitals.

The ban on flights, caused by a cloud of volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano, has been in place since Thursday.

The situation for schools in the region is potentially difficult with this week seeing the start of the summer term.

Graham White, general secretary of Suffolk National Union of Teachers (NUT) said: “The fact that term starts this week could be a problem.

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“However we’re not currently aware of a large number of teachers stuck abroad. If the situation does change or the flights ban gets extended then schools are going to have to look at getting supply teachers in.”

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said she was unaware of any doctors or staff unable to work but would continue to assess the situation.

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A spokesman at West Suffolk Hospital said: “The management of the hospital have had calls from a couple of consultants who are stranded elsewhere in Europe so there are going to be rescheduling a few operations but the majority of operations will go ahead as normal with colleagues filling in.”

At Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, two consultants and a small number of staff grade doctors were known to be stranded and unable to return to work today.

A spokesman for the trust, which runs Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital, said last night: “We are aware of a small number of staff who are currently stranded overseas.

“Obviously we need to freshly assess the situation and do all we can to minimise any impact their absence would have on services and staff.

“We will do everything we can to avoid any disruption to patient services.”

Jerry Glazier, general secretary of Essex NUT, said: “My guess is that with this being the second week of the Easter holidays there is likely to be a number of teachers who have anticipated returning to the UK this weekend who haven’t been able to do so.

“There will also, of course, be an impact with students who are also trapped having been on holiday and unable to get back.

“Obviously the impact will entirely depend on how many staff are around to come into work and that will become much clearer tomorrow.”

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