• Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Almost 8,000 NHS appointments cancelled due to last week’s junior doctors’ strike

This strike marks a part of ongoing disruptions, with over 1.2 million appointments impacted since the commencement of NHS strikes a year ago

Junior doctors and consultants picket outside University College Hospital at the beginning of a three-day strike over pay, on October 02, 2023, in London, England (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

After last week’s junior doctor strike, almost 88,000 NHS appointments had to be cancelled, predominantly comprising over 86,300 hospital check-ups and operations.

Additionally, around 1,500 community and mental health appointments were affected by the strike, the BBC reported.

This strike marks a part of ongoing disruptions, with over 1.2 million appointments impacted since the commencement of NHS strikes a year ago.

The upcoming six-day walkout by junior doctors, scheduled to begin on January 3, is set to be the longest in NHS history.

The decision for this extended walkout comes after the breakdown of talks between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government earlier this month.

NHS England’s medical director, Prof Sir Stephen Powis, expressed concerns about the upcoming strike, given that it coincides with one of the busiest periods for the health service.

He emphasised the substantial challenges this industrial action poses to the NHS, disrupting planned care and pressuring wider services.

The focus on emergency care during strikes diverts staff from other essential healthcare areas, compounding the strain on the system.

Nearly half of NHS doctors fall under the category of junior doctors, including those fresh out of university to those with a decade or more of experience.

About two-thirds of this group are members of the BMA, and they were joined by a smaller contingent from the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association union.

The strike necessitated the deployment of senior doctors from various services to manage emergency care, although some Accident and Emergency (A&E) units still faced closures.

Matthew Taylor, representing NHS Confederation, an organisation for managers, expressed deep concern among its members regarding the strikes’ impact on healthcare services.

He said that the figures released on Wednesday (27) might underestimate the actual effect as many NHS trusts would have curtailed their planned activities due to the strike’s influence.

Ahead of the impending walkout, the BMA expressed deep disappointment at having to take action again, following a previous stoppage in early October.

The association urged the government to present a new offer, having concluded talks after setting a deadline in early December for a resolution.

Discussions were underway for a proposed pay rise averaging 3% from January, which would be in addition to the nearly 9% average increment received by junior doctors in April.

However, the BMA deemed this offer inadequate, as junior doctors had sought an additional 35% to offset the below-inflation pay rises since 2008.

The ongoing industrial action within the NHS in England, starting last December with walkouts by ambulance staff and nurses, is estimated to have incurred a cost exceeding £2 billion in planning, preparations, and cover payments.

While a pay offer to NHS staff, excluding doctors, was accepted in May, consultants have temporarily halted their strike action as they vote on a fresh government offer.

Junior doctors in Wales are set to strike in January, and a ballot is ongoing in Northern Ireland. However, in Scotland, an agreement on pay has been reached.

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