Patients are warned their planned non-urgent appointments and community nurses could be delayed due to a strike by nurses today and tomorrow.

Nursing staff at 55 NHS trusts across England, including Cornwall and Dorset (but excluding Devon) are going on strike today and tomorrow (Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 January), as part of the Royal College of Nursing ongoing dispute over nursing pay and patient safety.  

The NHS trusts affected are different from those in the two days of December strikes just before Christmas, which saw nursing staff at 44 NHS trusts in England take action, including Devon.

However, the RCN has warned that if progress on dispute negotiations is not made by the end of January, strike action will be escalated on Monday and Tuesday, February 6 and 7 to include members at 73 NHS trusts in England, which could include Devon.

Patients are assured critical services such as kidney dialysis and intensive care will continue. The biggest impact is likely to be on pre-booked treatments such as hernia repair, hip replacements or outpatient clinics. Thousands of appointments had to be postponed after the last action. GP surgeries will run as normal, nurses who work in them are not striking.

An RCN spokesman said: 'We hoped these (earlier) strikes would force the UK government to open formal negotiations on the below-inflation NHS pay award for this financial year, which our dispute is about. But ministers have so far refused to take part in serious talks, choosing strikes instead.'

RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: 'Today’s strike action by nursing staff is a modest escalation before a sharp increase in under three weeks from now. If a week is a long time for Rishi Sunak, three weeks is the time he needs to get this resolved.

 'People aren’t dying because nurses are striking. Nurses are striking because people are dying. That is how severe things are in the NHS and it is time the Prime Minister led a fight for its future.

'Today’s record number of unfilled nurse jobs cannot be left to get worse. Pay nursing staff fairly to turn this around and give the public the care they deserve.

'We’re campaigning for a pay rise to help tackle chronic staff shortages by enabling the NHS to recruit and retain the nursing staff it desperately needs.'

A spokesman for NHS Providers, which represents NHS services, said the two-day strike would have a'greater impact than the December strike and predicted 'widespread disruption'.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation (of NHS employers), said: 'Without a pay deal, patients will face the effects of a prolonged war of attrition between the government and the unions.'

He said the dispute could not come at a more difficult time for the NHS and called for a compromise.

People seriously ill or injured and whose life is at risk are advised to call 999 as usual. For non-urgent care they should call 111.