Doctors' strikes to hit patients 'unlike anything seen before', NHS officials warn

18 September 2023, 09:31

NHS set for unprecedented levels of strikes
NHS set for unprecedented levels of strikes. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

NHS leaders have warned that this week's historic walkout by by junior doctors and consultants will cause unprecedented disruption for patients.

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Planned care is likely to come to a halt with thousands of appointments cancelled, as the row with the Government over pay and conditions continues.

Consultants in England will walk out for 48 hours from tomorrow, and will be joined by their junior colleagues on Wednesday. Junior doctors will then continue their strike on Thursday and Friday.

Junior doctor and members of the British Medical Association (BMA) on the picket line outside Leeds General Infirmary
Junior doctor and members of the British Medical Association (BMA) on the picket line outside Leeds General Infirmary. Picture: Alamy

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Those dates coincide with the Conservative conference in Manchester. Doctors have been accused of a 'politically motivated' strike by scheduling the industrial action at the same time as the Tories gather.

Junior doctors have already staged 19 days of strike action since March this year and consultants have staged four days.

Staff are expected to work on a 'Christmas Day cover' basis for both spells of industrial action, meaning emergency care will continue to be provided.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis warned the health service had "never seen this kind of industrial action in its history".

He said: "This week's first ever joint action means almost all planned care will come to a stop and hundreds of thousands of appointments will be postponed, which is incredibly difficult for patients and their families, and poses an enormous challenge for colleagues across the NHS."

He said people should continue to call 999 and use A&E as normal in emergency situations.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak began his premiership pledging to cut NHS waiting lists, but ministers' failure to resolve the dispute with junior medics and consultants has cast doubt on whether that promise can be achieved.

Industrial action in the NHS has been ongoing since December last year, with the number of appointments and operations cancelled having now passed 900,000.

Figures released earlier this month showed the NHS waiting list in England reached a new record high, with 7.7million people – around one in seven of the population – waiting for treatment.