Hospitals around the country say they got through a "difficult situation" during the nurses' strike thanks to good planning and lower patient numbers.

New Zealand Nursing Organisation nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants are returning to work this morning after a 24-hour strike from 7am yesterday.

The more than 30,000 members nationwide walked off the job yesterday and joined protests around the country after rejecting the Government's latest pay offer.

District health boards' spokeswoman Helen Mason said the life-preserving services agreements developed in advance of the strike, and lower emergency admissions, enabled DHBs to provide emergency and essential services, and get assistance from NZNO members where required.

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"With discharges, transfers and admissions, there has been very little change in hospital occupancy," Mason said.

"Emergency departments also continue with a lower than usual demand.

"GPs and primary care providers have also played their part and Healthline has been slightly busier than usual for a Thursday in July."

Mason, also chief executive of Bay of Plenty District Health Board, praised staff at Tauranga and Whakatane hospitals for their response to the strike.

Nurses rally on Ranolf St beneath the Rotorua Hospital. Photo / Ben Fraser
Nurses rally on Ranolf St beneath the Rotorua Hospital. Photo / Ben Fraser

"Walking around the wards last night and this morning I was blown away by how everybody; volunteers, doctors, nurses, Allied Health, Te Pou Kokiri, all pulled together and worked to ensure the safety of our patients and of each other.

"In what has been a challenging time people demonstrated exceptional teamwork and camaraderie and it was wonderful to see.

Auckland nurses marched down Queen St to Aotea Square in Auckland yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland nurses marched down Queen St to Aotea Square in Auckland yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker

"The fact hospitals have been able to provide the services they have is testament to that effort, which includes the contingency planning and preparation of the last three months."

Hospitals reported more staff and volunteers than planned, and occupancy levels were as expected.