NURSES at Colchester Hospital are preparing to walk out as their ongoing pay row continues.

Strike action will run continuously from 8pm on Sunday until 11.59pm on Monday, and a picket line will be held outside Colchester Hospital between 10am and 2pm on Monday.

Nick Hulme, the chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, apologised to the 1,658 patients whose operations or appointments were cancelled during previous strikes.

Mr Hulme added: “Where possible, we have been able to bring some operations forward rather than rescheduling to a later date.

Gazette: Sorry - Colchester Hospital boss Nick Hulme apologised to patients facing long wait timesSorry - Colchester Hospital boss Nick Hulme apologised to patients facing long wait times (Image: Archant)

“It is important that anyone who has an appointment during the strike continues to attend, unless we have already contacted them to rearrange it.”

Earlier this month members of the Royal College of Nursing voted to reject the government’s NHS pay offer.

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The offer included two one-off payments for the last tax year, totalling between £1,655 and £3,789 dependent on salary band.

A five per cent pay rise for members above a certain band was also offered for this tax year, as well as a series of commitments and plans to improve, terms and conditions over time.

The industrial action was set to run for 48 hours, until 8pm on Tuesday, but the High Court ruled yesterday the strike was unlawful as the strike mandate runs out on Monday.

Gazette: Strikes - Nurses walked out earlier this yearStrikes - Nurses walked out earlier this year (Image: Newsquest)

Health Secretary Steve Barclay, who welcomed the High Court decision, said NHS Employers had asked him to check the legality of the action.

He said: “I firmly support the right to take industrial action within the law – but the government could not stand by and let plainly unlawful strike action go ahead.

The RCN’s general secretary Pat Cullen said nurses would be “angered but not crushed” by the news.

She added: “It may even make them more determined to vote in next month’s reballot for a further six months of action. Nobody wants strikes until Christmas – we should be in the negotiating room, not the courtroom today.

“[Nurses] will continue to fight for the NHS, fight for patients, particularly those 7.3 million people that are sitting in waiting lists.”