“It will be business as usual”, say health chiefs ahead of union strike action on Thursday

NHS staff at Ipswich Hospital hold a four-hour pay strike in October.

NHS staff at Ipswich Hospital hold a four-hour pay strike in October. - Credit: Lucy taylor

Patients in Suffolk and north Essex were last night being reassured that plans are in place to deal with any potential disruption when NHS staff take part in a national strike on Thursday.

Members of unions including Unison and GMB are expected to be involved in industrial action as part of a row over pay. It will affect health centres and services including Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals.

Ahead of the action on Thursday, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: “We have been working very closely with our staff (union) representatives and our absolute priority is to make sure all our patients in the hospital, during industrial action, remain completely safe and receive high quality, compassionate care.

“We have got plans in place to make sure it is business as usual for us on that day.”

Members of the Society of Radiographers are also expected to take part in some of the strike. Officials at Ipswich Hospital have asked that, as a result, patients do not use the open access x-ray service on Thursday.

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Addressing the strike action that is expected, Jan Bloomfield, executive director of workforce at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “We have contingency plans in place to ensure that we can continue to provide safe services for our patients during periods of industrial action.

“We have been meeting regularly with our staff and the trade unions so that we can keep any disruption to a minimum.”

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A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: “It has been agreed with the unions that several areas will be exempt, including our critical care unit, neonatal unit, emergency theatres and patients scheduled to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy or kidney dialysis.

“The Trust has business continuity plans in place to minimise disruption to patients. However, it is impossible to know until the day itself how many services will be affected but the public can be assured that we will do our best to maintain ‘business as usual.’”

Union bosses have said there is a lot of support for strike action. There was also a four-hour walk out in October and there is more action planned for February.

The industrial action comes after ministers awarded NHS staff a 1% pay increase, but only for those without automatic progression-in-the-job rises.

But an Independent Pay Review Body said the pay rise should be across the board.

Jeffrey Keighley, regional organiser for Unison, said: “We have not been able to get them back to the table to discuss pay, it is a big decision to take a 12 hour strike. We are prepared to accept the one per cent pay rise, recommended by the independent pay review, and they have refused to give it to us.

“In real terms we have seen a 10% pay cut for the last five years, the decision to ignore the pay review and then scrap it in the future is completely wrong.”

“We are not talking about huge amounts, if they are not willing to come to the table then striking is the only option,” he added.

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