‘Lives will be lost’: Lord Winston tells LBC as NHS consultants and junior doctors walk out in first ever joint strike

20 September 2023, 00:38 | Updated: 20 September 2023, 06:36

Consultants and junior doctors are set to walk out together for the first time today.
Consultants and junior doctors are set to walk out together for the first time today. Picture: Alamy/Getty/LBC

By Jenny Medlicott

Labour peer and professor Lord Winston has warned of the ‘corrosive’ effect of NHS strikes as consultants and junior doctors walk out together for the first time in joint strikes.

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Thousands of NHS consultants are on strike across England in a dispute over pay as the health service braces itself for another wave of industrial action.

Speaking with Andrew Marr on LBC, leading fertility doctor Lord Winston said the strikes pose a “massive moral dilemma.”

“The risk of a strike is very serious, not only for patients, but for medicine, because I believe it has a corrosive effect on healthcare," he said.

“I wish they were not striking, I have to say.”

It comes as NHS England consultants and junior doctors head on strike in the first display of joint industrial action in the health service.

Junior doctors will join consultants at the pickets on Wednesday in a three day show of industrial action as they fight for a 35% pay increase.

The planned double demonstration of strike action has been described as “unchartered territory” for the NHS, as thousands of patient appointments are expected to be cancelled.

“It inevitably means that lives will be lost. My wife died because we didn’t get an ambulance in time," Lord Winston continued.

“That sort of thing is going to happen. It won’t be exactly like that but it will be similar.

Lord Robert Winston on the latest NHS strikes

“There is bound to be unnecessary grief.

“As a medic or as a nurse we have a duty to continue that profession not just during our professional life but during our social and other lives as well.

“This challenge by the government is a foolish one on both sides… I think the government has behaved horrendously badly, but I regret that the doctors finally feel forced to strike.”

The strikes come after the government implemented a 6% pay rise for consultants and 6% plus a £1,250 lump sum for junior doctors earlier this year - but it said there would be no further offers.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said he wage for junior doctors has fallen 26% between 2008 and 2022 and is fighting for "pay restoration".

Consultants first walked out at 7am on Tuesday, and are expected to strike for two days, and will be joined by doctors on Wednesday in three days of planned strikes. Emergency care will still be provided throughout.

The joint strikes have been described as "unchartered territory" for NHS England.
The joint strikes have been described as "unchartered territory" for NHS England. Picture: Alamy

Junior doctors, who have held 19 days of strike action since March, will continue their strike on Thursday and Friday this week.

Both consultant and junior doctor members of the British Medical Association (BMA) will again join forces for strikes on October 2, 3 and 4.

Thousands of operations and appointments have been cancelled as a result of the strikes, with NHS leaders warning that some patients are seeing their appointments rescheduled three times.

A Christmas Day-style service will be provided on the joint strike action days, with emergency care the priority.

It comes as the Government outlined plans to extend strike laws to ensure doctors and nurses in hospitals provide a minimum level of cover.

The new regulations, which are open to consultation, would mean doctors and nurses have to provide a certain level of cover after being issued with a "work notice" by employers on what is needed to maintain "necessary and safe levels of service".

Consultations on minimum service levels have already run for ambulance staff, fire and rescue services and passenger rail workers, after the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act became law.