NHS trusts that are struggling to manage pressures associated with industrial action should contact their ICB to discuss mutual aid, NHS England has suggested.
In a letter sent to trust and ICB executives, NHS England said that cancelling electives is a ‘last resort’ but added that cancellations can be ‘kept to a minimum’ with ‘good planning’.
Trusts that find they have no choice but to release beds or free up clinical staff to alleviate pressure on urgent care should first discuss this with their provider collaborative, ICB and regional colleagues, it said.
It added: ‘Many providers maintained good access for new outpatients (including virtual) and also used the time to make progress on validation and scheduling. Given this experience, we expect all trusts affected will be able to maintain this kind of access during future industrial action days.’
The letter sought to establish several key areas of activity that providers can focus on to help clear the elective backlog without cutting across the urgent focus on emergency care and industrial action.
It comes as nurses and ambulance workers are set to return to the picket line over the coming weeks, despite reports ministers were considering offering striking health workers a ‘one-off’ payment.
NHS England has also asked every organisation to book appointment date for all patients in the 78 week cohort by 31 January.
And any patient waiting for longer than 52 weeks on an RTT pathway should be validated by 20 January, if they have not been validated in the last 12 weeks.