10,000 patients affected after Belfast Health Trust cancels outpatient appointments and planned surgery
BELFAST Health Trust has cancelled all outpatient appointments and planned surgery next week - affecting 10,000 people.
There has already been some disruption to services this week due to industrial action over pay and staffing levels by Unison.
Unison represents about 25,000 healthcare workers including nurses, social care staff and support services.
Further action is planned by Unsion next week. The Royal College of Nursing is also planning 24 hours of action short of strike on December 3.
Strikes will take place on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
The Royal Victoria Hospital, Children's Hospital, Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital, School of Dentistry and Belfast City Hospital will be affected.
It will also impact on patients with appointments at Mater Hospital and Musgrave Park Hospital.
Belfast Health Trust said it was "extremely sorry for the disruption and distress" caused.
Cancelled appointments will be rebooked.
Appointments at Health and Wellbeing Centres are not affected.
Scheduled chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment at Bridgewater Suite or the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital will go ahead.
The action will also affect the South Eastern HSC Trust area.
On Wednesday, all routine outpatient appointments at the Ulster Hospital have been cancelled, with the exception of maternity and children's services.
On Friday, outpatients departments at Ulster, Lagan Valley, Downe, Ards and Bangor Hospitals will be closed in the afternoon. Day case surgery at Lagan Valley Hospital has been cancelled.
The Department of Health permanent secretary last night appealed to trade unions to pause action and enter into talks.
"It is clear to everyone that our health service is in an extremely fragile state. Industrial action will certainly exacerbate this situation," Richard Pengelly said.
"The latest disturbing waiting time statistics have just been released, hospital emergency departments remain under severe pressure and winter-related illnesses are impacting on the population.
"I fully understand the deep-seated anger and frustration of staff dealing with these escalating problems day and daily. Indeed, I share those feelings. My appeal to unions is simply this - please don't allow a bad situation to become worse."
He added that his department did not have the budget or authority to meet union demands on pay for this year.
"We are ready and willing to enter into a conciliation process with unions to map out an implementation plan for incoming ministers," he said.
"Trade unions have so far said they are unable to accept our conciliation proposals. I am now publicly urging them to think again."