Fears erupt over cancer treatment ‘being rescheduled’

Nurses strike: Barclay vows to 'continue dialogue' with unions

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However, despite the fact that NHS services will be greatly affected, the Royal College of Nursing Union has insisted that cancer patients will receive emergency and clinically urgent surgery during the action.

But the matter of cancer patient care was raised after concerns were highlighted in a letter written by the head of cancer care for NHS England, Dame Cally Palmer to RCN boss Patt CullenIn the letter, she requested “national derogation for urgent cancer surgery to avoid patient harm”.

A derogation is another way of saying exemption, with Dame Palmer’s request that cancer surgery be exempted from the action so patients can still receive life-saving care.

She continued: “I understand how enormously difficult these issues are for all concerned, but our common aim is to ensure we do not cause harm to people undergoing vital cancer treatment to achieve cure or extension of life.

“It’s important there is a clear and consistent decision on urgent cancer in line with the national derogation for chemotherapy and critical care.”

Despite, Dame Palmer’s concerns, the RCN has insisted that there will be a derogation for emergency cancer services.Furthermore, there will also be derogations for mental health, learning disability, and autism services.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the union said: “Cancer patients will get emergency and clinically urgent surgery, it is not in doubt.

This letter is already out of date as we have met senior clinicians today and agreed key points. The safety of patients is everybody’s top concern.”

“The public backs our campaign and knows that patients need a strong nursing workforce, but at the moment there are record losses jeopardising safe care.”

Nevertheless, Dame Palmer warned in her letter that while the RCN said strikes would not affect cancer care directly, that they could indirectly.

She said they could lead to cancelled operations and for cancer patients in P1 and P2 categories, with P1 defined as “life-saving and time critical” while P2 was “urgent cancer surgery which has an optimal time window”.

Dame Cally said rescheduling would “likely lead to delayed operations and poorer outcomes” and that many patients in P2 would move into P1, at which point life-saving procedures are required.

Despite this, the RCN has insisted cancer patients will receive the care they need, adding: “This is a politically motivated smear from a government that is failing cancer patients.”

The claims by the RCN have come as chief nursing officers from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland wrote to Ms Cullen about concerns over patient safety.

They said: “Many chief nurses/directors of nursing are, of course, RCN members themselves and some have expressed feelings of having been let down by the RCN.

”Furthermore, they requested that assurances be given for community nursing services providing “end of life care” in order to “alleviate unnecessary distress” for palliative care patients.

On Tuesday night, the RCN said it had already agreed further exemptions to the strikes, due to go ahead on December 15 and 20.

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