CANCER care will not be stopped for nurses’ strikes, union bosses say.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak again branded NHS pay rise demands “unaffordable” amid warnings of appointment and surgery cancellations in next month’s walkouts.
But leaders say cancer sufferers and emergency care will be protected.
Pat Cullen, general secretary at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Services such as oncology will be derogated – or exempt – from any strike action.”
There are currently around 89,000 patients in hospitals across the country and medics admit services will be cut back on strike days.
Nurses voted for industrial action at 176 NHS trusts around the UK – more than half in England and all but one in Wales.
Ms Cullen said the Royal College, which balloted around 300,000 members, is ironing out details of which services will not be included in strikes.
She said: “We will continue to provide life-preserving services. And those essentially fall into emergency-type care.
“Services such as oncology will be derogated or exempt from any strike action.
“We have a number of services that we are working through at the minute that will be derogated on the day of strike, and we will release that list soon to employers.
“Those services that are not considered life-preserving or emergency services will not be derogated.”
The strike comes after ministers and union reps failed to agree on a pay rise for nursing staff, with the RCN demanding a 19 per cent increase.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the bump would cost £10billion a year and is “not affordable”.
PM Rishi Sunak said: “I have enormous respect and gratitude to our nurses as everyone does for the incredible job they do.
“And I know things are difficult right now for everyone because of what’s happening with inflation.
“I think most people will recognise that that’s obviously unaffordable, and that’s why I’m pleased that the Health Secretary is sitting down, talking to the union, and hopefully we can find a way through this.”