Responding to the British Medical Association's (BMA) letter to NHS England on strike derogations Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“NHS trusts have been working at pace to prepare for these strikes, which come during one of the busiest weeks of the year for the health service. They are dealing with rising levels of winter viruses in the midst of industrial action and higher than anticipated staff sickness. A number of trusts have already declared critical incidents, with pressure likely to get worse as the walkout continues this week.
“Rather than accusing hospital leaders of refusing to provide the required information in full to the BMA, this is more about them needing to limit the precious time they and their teams have available to filling in forms when patient safety could be at risk.
“This is why on behalf of our members, we called for national derogations to be agreed in advance as not all NHS organisations have a wide range of alternative staffing arrangements at their fingertips – especially so soon after Christmas when many schools are still closed.
“In the absence of these we hope the BMA will cooperate with time critical requests from NHS trusts and that the recall process runs smoothly in the best interest of patients.”