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

27 June 2023, 16:13 | Updated: 28 June 2023, 00:36

Doctors on strike earlier this month
Doctors on strike earlier this month. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Senior doctors at hospitals in England are set to walk out on two days in July on the same week as junior doctor strikes in a dispute over pay after a vote in favour of strikes.

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The NHS consultants could walk out on Thursday, July 20 and Friday, July 21, according to doctors' union the British Medical Association. But the union said that no industrial action had been announced yet.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that senior doctors' pay had fallen by 35% in real terms since 2008.

The union said that it asked its members to vote on "Christmas Day levels of care", adding in a statement: "This would ensure that emergency care would continue to be provided, but elective or non-emergency work would need to be cancelled.

"It is likely that action would be for one or two days at a time."

But the strike action will fall on the same week junior doctors are scheduled to finish their longest period of industrial action, running from 7am on Thursday 13 July, to 7am on Tuesday 18 July.

Read more: Junior doctors to walk out in July for longest-ever NHS industrial action

Read more: Cancer nurses walk out for first time in NHS history as union leader warns strikes could last until Christmas

Junior doctors are also on strike
Junior doctors are also on strike. Picture: Alamy

Care will still be "safe and effective", the union insisted. Although emergency care will still be provided, elective or non-emergency work will be cancelled.

More than 71% of members turned out for the vote, with a majority of more than 86% backing the strikes.

It comes after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced its plans to end strikes on Tuesday after the union failed to reach the threshold for industrial action.

In the second ballot held by RCN 43% of members voted for industrial action, just falling short of the 50% threshold.

After the strike vote from BMA was announced, a spokesperson for a hospital consultants' group said the government was "drinking in the last chance saloon".

President Dr Naru Narayanan said: "Strikes by senior doctors have long been unthinkable, and the fact they are now on the cards is absolutely unprecedented.

Consultants are striking over pay
Consultants are striking over pay. Picture: Alamy

”The government is drinking in the last chance saloon. It has a golden opportunity now to thrash out a deal and reduce current high levels of discontent.

"It’s also in patients’ interests that it does so, because the NHS needs to remain competitive to be able to retain the experienced doctors it has and continue to attract those we need in future.

"This tense situation is not just going to go away by itself. You can’t cut senior doctors’ salaries by over 30 percent and not expect that to have an impact, whether that be expressed in growing support for strike action or individuals simply choosing to pack up and retire. The government must now sit down with the recognised unions and reach a deal."

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This will be a huge blow to the service. Leaders will be putting plans in place to make sure life-saving critical care continues.

“This will be uncharted territory for a post-pandemic NHS.”

So far, more than 650,000 NHS appointments have been cancelled as a result of strikes.

Caller blames junior doctors strike for death of his daughter

It comes after junior doctors voted to strike last week on July 13 and July 18.

The junior doctors' announcement was made as a BMA survey showed that they report being offered more opportunities to move abroad in the last four months than ever before.

Just over half of the nearly 2,000 junior doctors surveyed said they have received more job advertisements from recruiters to overseas jobs since strikes were announced.

The government of South Australia even paid for trucks to be sent to junior doctor picket lines carrying job adverts offering improved pay if those doctors emigrated, it was revealed.

Phone in: BMA Junior Doctors Committee co-chairman on 72-hour strike day

Co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: "The NHS is one of this country's proudest achievements and it is shameful that we have a Government seemingly content to let it decline to the point of collapse with decades of real-terms pay cuts to doctors driving them away.

"With the 75th birthday of the NHS just days away, neglect of its workforce has left us with 7.4 million people on waiting lists for surgery and procedures, 8,500 unfilled doctors' posts in hospitals, and doctors who can barely walk down the road without a foreign government tempting them to leave an NHS where they are paid £14 per hour for a country which will pay them properly."

Meanwhile nurses' union the Royal College of Nursing said in a ballot had not met the 50% turnout threshold necessary to be able to take further strike action, after several days of walkouts earlier this year.

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