Hospital asks for patient families to ‘assist with mealtimes’

John Bishop says nurses going on strike because NHS is broken

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A hospital has asked patients’ families for help as nursing strikes loom this week. Dorset County Hospital has reached out for “additional support” ahead of planned industrial action on January 18 and 19. Staff said in a statement that the building would open for longer visiting hours and “welcome” family members prepared to help on-duty nurses.

The statement, posted to its website, noted that “relatives and friends” of patients can visit during a 10-hour window.

People can drop by between 10am and 8pm, extending the usual 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm visiting window by six hours.

Staff stressed that all wards would be “safely staffed” during the strikes but that members of the public could help nurses focus on the most vital services.

They said nursing staff would need to “focus on clinical care” and that visitors could help with more menial duties.

An example of potential aid the hospital provided was helping “assist with mealtimes”.

The trust has not provided any further details of the kind of help it would like from visitors.

Experts have criticised the request as a bad idea, with Dennis Reed, the director of the Silver Voices campaign group, telling the Daily Telegraph it “is a very dangerous situation”.

He added people likely won’t appreciate “basically being asked to strike break” as nurses prepare to withhold labour across dozens of NHS trusts.

Nurses will walk out from 55 trusts in England later this week as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) builds momentum.

Roughly a quarter of hospitals and community services will shoulder the impact, affecting some operations and routine services.

Nurses will still provide services in intensive and emergency care, but check-ups and minor operations may see some disruption.

Vital services such as kidney dialysis and chemotherapy receive priority staffing over operations like hip replacements.

Health services have asked people to honour scheduled medical appointments, but some may have seen theirs cancelled.

The RCN announced earlier this week that nurses had voted for another round of strikes affecting more trusts in February.

The additional action will cover 73 trusts next month, the union announced on Monday.

In a statement, Pat Cullen, the RCN chief executive, blamed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Ms Cullen said Mr Sunak had “chosen strike action” after Government negotiations failed to reach an acceptable agreement.

She said: “We are doing this in a desperate bid to get him and ministers to rescue the NHS.

“The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs – patient care is suffering like never before.”

The RCN has called for higher pay after claiming the value of salaries for experienced nurses are “20 percent lower in real terms due to successive below-inflation pay awards since 2010”.

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