NHS leaders have warned that strikes by junior doctors and consultants this week will cause unprecedented disruption for patients amid a historic joint walkout.
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.
Both consultants and junior doctors will then strike together on October 2, 3 and 4.
Those dates coincide with the Conservative Party conference, with doctors having been accused of a ‘politically motivated’ strike by scheduling the industrial action at the same time as the Tories gather in Manchester.
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 (pictured: a picket line with striking doctors in August)
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.
Ahead of the strikes, NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis warned the health service had ‘never seen this kind of industrial action in its history’.
He added: ‘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.
Doctors’ union the British Medical Association has admitted using these patients as ‘leverage’ in its bid to secure a deal.
Downing Street warned that a strike by NHS doctors in England will pose a ‘huge challenge’ and disrupt patient care.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘These co-ordinated strikes will pose a huge challenge for the NHS and for patients, who will see their care significantly disrupted.’
Health Secretary Steve Barclay was open to discussions about the ‘non-pay elements’ of the British Medical Association’s concerns but there were no plans to ‘revisit’ the pay deal, the spokesman said.
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
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, warned that strikes cannot become a ‘new normal’.
She hit out at the lack of ‘meaningful dialogue’ between the Government and medics, and warned it is ‘likely to cause disruption to patient care unlike anything we’ve seen before’.
Ms Cordery added: ‘We need this dispute to be resolved, and fast, but there is a deep and growing frustration among trust leaders at the sheer lack of action to even start to break this deadlock.
‘We cannot allow strikes to become business as usual for the NHS.
‘With no end in sight, trust leaders are once again urging the Government and trade unions to sit down and talk so that everyone’s focus can get back to the real priority – providing safe, high-quality and timely care for patients.’
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said yesterday: ‘We accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full, meaning doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3 per cent pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8 per cent.’
The spokesman added: ‘Consultants are receiving a 6 per cent pay rise and are already in the top two per cent of earners in the country.
‘This pay award is final and the Health and Social Care Secretary is clear his door is open to discuss non-pay issues if the BMA call an end to this damaging disruption.’
Source: Mail Online