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Exhausted nurses across the UK are being asked to work on their rest days and cancel annual leave to fill staff absences related to COVID-19.
Nursing Standard. 37, 2, 6-6. doi: 10.7748/ns.37.2.6.s3
Published: 02 February 2022
Multiple NHS trusts declared critical incidents in January as staff absence due to COVID-19 climbed.
Among the organisations was United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which appealed to staff to work extra hours while what it described as extreme and unprecedented staff shortages were expected to compromise patient care.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor later said many parts of the health service were in a state of crisis.
‘Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave to enable them to sustain core services,’ he wrote in a blog post in January. services, which were already massively overstretched, are at breaking point.’
Guidance from the RCN states that it may not be reasonable for employers to issue a blanket ban on annual leave and any cancellation should only be in exceptional circumstances or with a local agreement in place.
It adds that employers also have a duty to give nurses a period of statutory notice if it cancels their leave and the employee may be entitled to compensation if a holiday booking is lost.
Responding to the news on Facebook nurses said it was wrong to expect staff to give up annual leave.
One nurse wrote: ‘It’s wrong that nurses and caring staff have to burn themselves out, they are not robots.’
Another said: ‘Staff need their holidays before they end up ill as well.’
See analysis, page 15