Exemptions for Great Ormond Street amid ‘serious concerns’ about strike impact

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) has been granted exemptions to ease the pressure on its services during the bank holiday nursing strike.

The world-renowned children’s hospital had expressed “serious concerns” about staffing as Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members prepare to walk out over a long-running pay dispute with the Government.

The RCN, which is holding a strike from 8pm on Sunday until 11.59pm on Monday evening, previously said it will not agree to derogations – broad areas of care where unions agree to provide staffing during industrial action.

But union leader Pat Cullen said mitigations were granted on Friday following a request from GOSH, insisting nurses working at the hospital would “never ever” leave child patients at risk.

Ms Cullen said any suggestion that mitigations were not being put in place were “factually incorrect”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All of the exemptions that Great Ormond Street requested of the Royal College of Nursing were granted earlier yesterday.”

The protocol surrounding exemptions requires the RCN to pass its approval on to NHS England, which is then responsible for notifying the individual organisation, Ms Cullen said.

She added that any derogations being sought by other organisations would be given “very careful consideration” to ensure critical areas of care can continue.

Mat Shaw, the hospital’s chief executive, had said: “We respect the right of our staff to take part in lawful industrial action, but after exhausting all options, at the moment we have serious concerns over how we will safely staff our hospital during the strike.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of our patients and so we have no choice but to declare a business continuity incident.”

It is understood the situation is under review following the RCN’s decision to grant exemptions on Friday evening.

Nurses make up a quarter of NHS staff and are the biggest proportion of the health service workforce.

As the NHS prepares to cope with the strike, NHS England is urging the public to use the health service wisely.

It said emergency and urgent care would remain the priority, with people asked to use other services such as pharmacies and 111 where possible.