NHS leaders have called on the government to compensate health services as the Queen’s funeral bank holiday means they must pay staff who are working more.
Thousands of patients are set to be impacted as trusts postpone all outpatient appointments and planned operations because of reduced staffing levels. The public holiday announced for Monday will also see GP surgeries close.
As well as having to rearrange appointments and procedures, leaders have warned the bank holiday will mean additional staffing costs and want the government to reimburse services “in full”.
In emails seen by The Independent, several trusts have confirmed staff able to work on the bank holiday would get the usual enhanced pay rates and days in lieu for those who work. Some are entitled to double pay or pay and a half for working a public holiday.
One NHS director warned the cost could exceed £1 million for a large NHS trust, while Martin Green, chief executive of Care UK, which represents care homes said additional staffing for large care home groups could reach £1 million.
Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “As different rates of payment are given to frontline health and care staff for working over bank holidays, NHS leaders are awaiting confirmation from the government that this additional cost will be compensated in full.”
In response to the bank holiday news, one doctor told The Independent: “I have the greatest respect for the Queen … but when patients are waiting up to 2 years to be seen … really?”
Another doctor said: “Its difficult to staff [theatre] lists and clinics when schools are all closed and many staff have caring responsibilities But, yes, late notice, the hospital took a few days to decide what to do and frankly not sure why funeral could not be held over the weekend.”
A doctor in Newcastle told The Independent: “Regarding the overall situation I think it is a great shame that the funeral isn’t at the weekend. I’d be very upset if I was waiting for a CT scan, an important outpatient appointment or an operation and had been told it was now cancelled.
“In my opinion, thought should have been given to the precarious situation in the NHS and a serious attempt should have been made to avoid cancellations.
“Urgent and out-of-hours services will almost certainly be busier and that will make waits longer.”
Kings College Hospital announced on Monday night that it would have to cancel “the vast majority” of non-urgent appointments and operations on Monday, while Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trust said all routine outpatient appointments would be stood down.
Sources at University Hospitals Birmingham said the trust was cancelling outpatient appointments but emergency and “vital” services would continue.
In an email to staff, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital Trust (SWBH) said planned urgent cancer operations would go ahead providing staffing levels were “safe”.
The message said all other planned non-urgent primary care, planned procedures and outpatient appointments would be rescheduled.
Both UHB and SWBH told staff they will get the usual enhanced rates for working on a bank holiday.
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital FT said emergency, urgent and cancer operations would continue but added: “A reduced routine service will also be provided to allow as many staff as possible to participate in the bank holiday and witness the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. “
One GP leader in London said practice staff were now getting “abuse” over the bank holiday closures.
He said: “We’re running up our weekend and bank holiday cover, as always, but getting the staff is difficult as child-minding is the biggest issue with the schools shut.”
Concerns were also raised by clinicians over the impact the public holiday would have on discharge levels with social care providers also working in “bank holiday mode”.
The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists have also said trainee doctors due to take an exam on Monday will have to have it postponed to January.
In a statement, RCOG said the venues used for exams will be closed on Monday and cancellations would have a “significant” impact and be “disruptive” for doctors.
The Department for Health and Social Care was approached for comment.