Hospitals in Weston-super-Mare and Bristol face “difficult few days” of strike action and the NHS is still working to get contingencies in place, a local hospitals boss has said.

Nurses go on strike tomorrow (December 15) for the first time in history and again on December 20. The Royal College of Nursing voted to take the action over real-term pay cuts, as nurses wages have not risen in line with inflation.

On Monday, Eugene Yafele, chief executive of the NHS trust that runs Weston General as well as hospitals in Bristol, told a meeting of the trust’s board: “We are still working through the number of colleagues who will be taking strike action and as a consequence how we might be able to have contingencies in place to ensure that we can deliver safe services.”

He warned: “We have ahead of us quite a difficult few days of industrial action at a point where we are seeing increased demand coming through our emergency services, particularly for children.”

But he added that an agreement has been reached nationally with the RCN to protect children’s emergency services from the strike action.

Mr Yafele said: “That’s a service that is going to be protected nationally which will come as a great comfort certainly for colleagues working within our own emergency department for children, which has seen quite record numbers of people attending within the last few weeks.”

However, other services will be hit. Mr Yafele said: “It’s safe to say that we will have some disruption to our elective program and elective recovery.”

There are also upcoming strikes in the ambulance service, with three unions representing the service going on strike on the 21st and a smaller one-union strike on the 28th. The Royal College of Midwives were also being balloted for strike action but it was announced on Monday that they had not reached the threshold for strike action.

Mr Yafele said: “Walking through our organisation talking to colleagues, I think there is a deep sense of regret they find themselves in this situation that they have got to take this action.

“And I think it is also heartening that there are colleagues who absolutely support industrial action but have signalled their intention to be present for work, and we are still looking for ways in which we recognise their solidarity for those who are taking strike action but absolutely their commitment to be providing care and support for patients during this period.”

He added: “As we stand now, we are still very much working on the assumption that we will be able to provide services and we would call them safest staffing, which is keeping them as safe as we can based on the numbers that we have.”