Five-day junior doctor strike will cost the NHS £125 million and could hit waiting list recovery, NHS says

13 July 2023, 08:06

NHS England has told LBC the cost of staffing gaps caused by junior doctors walking out over the next five days will be around £125 million.
NHS England has told LBC the cost of staffing gaps caused by junior doctors walking out over the next five days will be around £125 million. Picture: Alamy

By Fraser Knight.

The longest-ever walkout by junior doctors in England is set to cost the health service £125 million in staffing costs as agency workers are drafted in to fill gaps.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The strike, which lasts from Thursday through to Tuesday morning, is part of an ongoing dispute between the British Medical Association (BMA) and ministers.

The union is calling for a 35% pay rise, after years of below-inflation increases. An independent pay review has reportedly recommended that the government offer junior doctors a salary boost of 6% or more.

But now the cost of the strike action has been revealed, with the money set to come out of a pot of cash set aside to help tackle the NHS waiting list.

The health service's assessment reads: "It is estimated that the cost of providing staff cover for each junior doctor strike day to the NHS could be in the region of £25 million per day. This means some of the money provided to trusts as part of the Elective Recovery Fund to pay for elective treatment is having to be made available to spend on the effects of strike action instead."

Read more: ‘Unchartered territory for NHS’: July set for seven days of strikes from senior and junior doctors in NHS chaos

Read more: 'No decisions have been made on public sector pay', Rishi Sunak insists, as Cabinet split grows

Junior doctors are locked in a dispute with the government over pay
Junior doctors are locked in a dispute with the government over pay. Picture: Getty

Former Conservative health minister Lord James Bethell told LBC he expects that cost will be much higher still.

"It’s very disappointing to hear what a hard hit it’s going to have on very scarce funds but the real impact on the NHS will be a lot more than that. There’s all the disruption created in the system which costs a huge amount to put back in place.

"If you have thousands and thousands of missed appointments, you have to book them all back in at a later date, quite often in out of hours and will incur quite substantial costs and the people involved will be more ill than they would’ve been with prompt treatment.

"Ministers have put huge funds and focus on tackling waiting lists and many of those waiting lists were beginning to come down before the strikes began. I think there was a good chance they might have hit those targets if it weren’t for this industrial action."

Peter Hitchens believes 'beyond doubt' that doctors and nurses should 'never' strike

Junior doctors are paid between £30,000 and £58,000 a year, depending on their experience.

Consultants, who are also walking out for two days after the junior doctor strike, can earn up to £120,000 a year.

Research also found that some NHS trusts are paying hundreds of pounds per hour for agency staff to fill gaps.

Freedom of Information requests revealed one in three NHS trusts in England forked out more than £3,000 for a single doctor’s shift last year.

The BMA has said its strike action comes with three demands: to ‘reverse the steep decline’ in pay faced by junior doctors since 2008; to agree to avoid any future declines against the rising cost of living; and to reform the pay review body that recommends pay increase amounts to the government.

A & E Doctor Liv is debating a move to Australia

Author, comedian and former junior doctor Adam Kay told MPs on Wednesday: "Clearly there are more efficient ways of converting A-levels into cash than via clinical medicine – that’s not why people go in – but when I left medicine in 2010, I was earning a quarter more in real-terms than equivalent staff are earning today.

"It is not unreasonable to want equivalent to back then it feels like such a small demand. And what’s the Plan B? Because at the moment everyone is leaving."

But the health secretary said the BMA’s demands are unaffordable.

Steve Barclay said: "This five-day walkout by junior doctors will have an impact on thousands of patients, put patient safety at risk and hamper efforts to cut NHS waiting lists.

"We were in discussions about pay and a range of other measures to improve the working lives of junior doctors until their representatives collapsed the negotiations by announcing further strikes. A pay demand of 35% or more is unreasonable and risks fuelling inflation, which makes everyone poorer.

"If the BMA shows willingness to move significantly from their current pay demands and cancels these damaging and disruptive strikes, we can get around the table to find a fair deal to resolve this dispute."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

A picture of Alexei Navalny next to flowers in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin

Body of Russian opposition leader Navalny handed over to his mother, aide says

Alexei Navalny attending an anti-Putin rally St. Petersburg, Russia, February 2012

Alexei Navalny's body handed to mother after 'three-hour ultimatum' over late Russian opposition figure's burial

French President Emmanuel Macron at the agriculture fair

Macron booed by French farmers as he visits Paris agricultural fair

Volodymyr Zelensky

Western leaders arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Lee Anderson has been suspended for his comments about Sadiq Khan

Lee Anderson suspended from Conservative Party after claiming 'Islamists have control of Sadiq Khan'

Wet weather is expected on Sunday and Monday

Fears of travel chaos on Sunday and Monday amid heavy rain, as yellow weather warning issued

Jesse Baird and Luke Davies have not been seen since Monday

Police in desperate riverbed hunt for missing TV presenter and boyfriend, as cop ex-lover accused of murder

Yulia Navalnaya

Navalny widow accuses Putin of mocking Christianity for refusing to return body

Charles has shared a message of support for Ukraine

King Charles hails 'heroism' of Ukrainians as world leaders mark second anniversary of Russian invasion in Kyiv

Junior doctors have gone on strike again

Junior doctors walk out for five-day strike amid long-standing pay row, in latest round of NHS industrial action

Sarah Oliver was killed in the collision

Woman killed by driver who sped through red light while on her phone, as she is jailed for nine years

Spain Building Fire

10th body found in charred remnants of Valencia apartment building

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazilian president accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza

Hamilton Palace is said to be abandoned

Crumbling Sussex mansion abandoned by millionaire developer 'is UK's biggest slum' and is 'magnet for drug abuse'

Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will back Ukraine 'to the end'

'We will be there to the end': Shapps vows UK will back Ukraine until war is over, as Britain gives £245m military aid

LBC spoke to a mother and daughter from the war-torn city of Mariupol

Ukrainian refugees accuse Home Office of becoming ‘tired of Ukraine’ after altering resettlement schemes