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ICB war rooms go live ahead of nursing strikes

ICB war rooms go live ahead of nursing strikes
By Jess Hacker
1 December 2022

All 42 ICBs have now launched their system control centres (SCCs) – dubbed ‘war rooms’ – days ahead of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) strikes.

The data-driven SCCs were announced in mid-October as a means of constantly tracking beds and demand across primary and secondary care, with NHS England later urging ICBs to use their war rooms to manage any industrial action.

It comes as the RCN this week announced strikes would be taking place over two days at six ICBs, despite nearly half of ICBs meeting the mandate for strike action.

The union has said that strikes in other locations where the legal mandate was met will take place in January, unless negotiations are held.

Industrial action this month will take place on 15 and 20 December at:

  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
  • Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB
  • North Central London ICB
  • Devon ICB
  • Birmingham and Solihull ICB
  • And Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB.

The ICBs have declined to comment on the strike action.

The new 24/7 hubs – which were ordered to go live by 1 December – sit at ICB level, and are expected to visualise major operational risks facing their system using primary care demand data and Local Primary Care information returns.

However, most ICBs adapted existing resilience units to meet the orders charged to SCCs.

Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB told Healthcare Leader it has had an SCC-type service in place since October 2020 previously running from 8am to 6pm, short of the 24/7 brief.

It said it has worked this month to ensure it meets the full operating hours. The service is run by the director of Urgent & Emergency Care on behalf of the ICB’s deputy CEO and lead for the provider collaborative.

Dorset ICB adapted its Integrated Resilience Unit (IRU), launched on 30 September to operate as an out-of-hours service.

Although the mandate to strike was met in Dorset and Lancashire and South Cumbria, action will not take place in either site in December.

Frimley ICB has an established systems operations centre – currently run by Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) director Gail King – which sits alongside its SCC. Both will coordinate the system response for EPPR scenarios, including potential strikes.

The RCN is currently calling for a pay rise of 5% above Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation. The Government’s previous offer stood well below current levels of inflation with a 4% raise.

ICSs were tasked with taking part in a ‘multi-day’ test in November to prepare for staff taking to the picket line.

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