Never-ending NHS strikes force hospitals to cancel ‘more than a MILLION appointments’
- Walkouts by junior doctors and consultants saw 100,000 consultations delayed
- Some 885,154 appointments had already been cancelled before the latest action
One million NHS appointments have now been cancelled due to ‘damaging and demoralising’ strikes, figures are expected to confirm today.
A walk-out by junior doctors and consultants in England last week is thought to have seen around 100,000 consultations postponed.
The toll will add to the 885,000 appointments already axed since unions began their crusade for better pay last December.
Health chiefs say the reality will be much worse than official figures show given that trusts pre-emptively stopped booking appointments on strike days.
NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, warned bosses are ‘incredibly worried’ of the threat of strikes continuing into the winter, when ailing hospitals are under huge pressure with the threat of seasonal illnesses.
Official data shows 885,154 appointments had already been cancelled since strikes began in December, before last week’s historic joint walkout was taken into account
NHS Consultants carry placards as they strike at a picket outside the University College Hospital in London on 19 September
Consultants — who earn six-figure salaries, on average — took to picket lines for 48 hours last week, overlapping with junior doctors who staged a 72-hour walkout.
This left patients with ‘Christmas Day’ cover in hospitals, with emergency units staffed and a basic level of cover on wards.
Further joint action by both groups of medics is planned next week.
As a result, health leaders have told patients to expect five ‘Christmas Days’ in the coming weeks due to further strikes. Most non-emergency care has been cancelled on these dates, despite efforts to tackle a record backlog that built up during Covid.
So far this year, junior doctors have staged 22 days of strike action, with consultants taking to the picket lines on six separate days.
READ MORE: I’m a cancer patient whose operation has been cancelled because of NHS walkouts. I think it’s a scandal that doctors can strike
Monika Schiffer was diagnosed with breast cancer on both sides earlier this year in January and endured six rounds of chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumours
Many routine hospital appointments and treatments, including cancer care, have been postponed as a result of industrial action, which is being coordinated by the British Medical Association (BMA).
The union argues that the medics’ pay has been eroded over the last 15 years. It has demanded a 35 per cent pay uplift, while consultants, who are in the top two per cent of earners in the country, set their pay demand at 11 per cent.
However, the Government said their pay offer — which is worth between six and 10 per cent, depending on the staff group and their level of experience — is final.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘How bad does it have to get before we see an end to these damaging and demoralising industrial disputes?
‘The immediate concern has to be with patients — more than a million and counting — whose care or treatment has been delayed.
‘Trust leaders understand only too well the distress this can bring them and their loved ones. Every effort has been made to mitigate the impact of successive strikes but the rising disruption figures tell only a small part of the story.
‘With the official tally of figures capturing those procedures and appointments that we know are rescheduled, thousands more patients will be affected because trusts are simply not booking in care for strike days known well in advance.
‘Behind every delay there is a real and human cost. How many more reasons are needed for an end to the dispute?’
Monika Schiffer, a cancer patient from Bournemouth, told MailOnline that her double mastectomy had been cancelled due to strikes.
She said: ‘I think it’s a scandal that the NHS is allowed to strike. I would ban all emergency services — police, fire brigade and the NHS — [from taking industrial action]. They play with people’s lives.’
Meanwhile, a mother told how she feared that her daughter could lose her eyesight after her vital eye surgery was cancelled for a third time due to NHS strikes.
Patsi Whelan Archer said her daughter was last week due to undergo an operation to treat cataracts in both of her eyes and replace the battery in a potentially life-saving anti-seizure device. But it was cancelled due to action by junior doctors.
And Fiona Chapman, from Wadebridge, Cornwall, said her husband had has procedure for crippling migraines cancelled twice due to strikes by NHS medics.
Ms Cordery told Sky News that resolving the dispute will help to bring down the waiting list.
She said: ‘I think the critical thing here… is that it’s absolutely in the Government’s gift and the union’s gift to come round the table, have the conversations and resolve the strike action.
‘If we resolve the strike action, then we will be in a position where we can start to bring down the waiting list.
Pictured: NHS consultants and junior doctors carry placards as they strike outside St Thomas’ hospital in London on September 20
Consultants in England have taken to the picket lines on four separate days so far this summer, while junior doctors have staged 19 days of strike action this year. Both will return to the picket lines together on October, 2, 3 and 4. Radiographers are also set to join medics by walking out for 24 hours from 8am on October 3
‘Because we know that hospital trusts and other healthcare organisations are working at double speed, when they can, in order to get people through, have their appointments, have their operations and resolve their situations.’
Asked about the possibility of strikes rolling into winter, she added: ‘[We are] incredibly worried if we see industrial action continuing into the winter.
‘We know that winter is a hugely difficult time. It’s become more difficult because of the risk of Covid and outbreaks of Covid alongside flu and other respiratory conditions being exacerbated by the weather.
‘But then if we put industrial action on top of this, particularly the industrial action that we saw last week, which was junior doctors and consultants striking together, then we know we’re in for a really tough time and what we know is that patients and staff and the public deserve more.’
Professor Phil Banfield, council chairman of the BMA, said the union is ‘extremely sorry that it has come to this’ but said strikes are necessary to ensure there are ‘trained doctors around to care for all patients in the future’.
READ MORE: NHS strikes see man’s life-changing op cancelled TWICE – as wife reveals third could be called off due to walkouts
Ms Chapman, whose husband (left) can no longer work due to his severe pain, was told by doctors that they hope to operate in October — but has been warned that further walkouts by NHS staff could trigger further delays
He said: ‘It is doctors, with their skills and expertise, who have continued treating patients despite years of relative pay erosion, a pandemic that was a brutal experience for doctors, nurses and other carers – as well as so many families – and the challenges of dealing with the worst waiting lists in the NHS’s history which have impacted patient care across the last decade and more.
‘It is the Government that chooses not to acknowledge the cost and value of medical care – it is in their hands to safeguard the retention and recruitment of doctors in the NHS for years to come.
‘The longer the Government buries its head in the sand, the more both strikes and waiting lists cost the public purse.
‘It’s a no-brainer to invest in the future of the NHS workforce rather than waste further money refusing to pitch a credible pay offer.
‘Our door has been open for over a year and we hope for the sake of our patients that the Government eventually listens.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘The co-ordinated action next week will create further unacceptable disruption for patients and fellow NHS staff.
‘We accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full, meaning doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3 per cent pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8 per cent.
‘Consultants are receiving a 6 per cent pay rise and are already in the top 2 per cent of earners in the country.
‘This pay award is final, and the majority of unions representing over one million other NHS workers have accepted our offer and called off further strike action.
‘The Health and Social Care Secretary is clear his door is open to discuss non-pay issues if the BMA call an end to this damaging disruption.’
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