NHS leader warns of widespread disruption as doctors continue strike

An NHS leader has warned of widespread disruption this weekend as junior doctors enter the third day of their five-day walkout over pay.

Junior doctors in England are staging their 11th strike in a long-running dispute with the Government and will return to work on July 2 – just two days before voters go to the polls for the General Election.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said urgent and emergency care this weekend was being prioritised and people should still call 999 in an emergency.

However, he asked people to check on their neighbours and vulnerable people as some parts of the country continue to see high summer temperatures.

He said: “With industrial action set to cause widespread disruption this weekend, and the NHS seeing record levels of patients in recent months, we urge the public to help us by using services as they normally would.

Patients should also attend appointments as normal, unless told otherwise by their local booking team

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England

“Everyone can also help by taking steps to keep themselves and others safe during the weekend – such as by checking up on a family member or neighbour who may be particularly vulnerable to warm weather to make sure they are okay.

“We are prioritising urgent and emergency care, so people should continue to call 999 for life-threatening emergencies, while NHS 111 on the NHS app, online or by phone is there for other health needs where you will receive clinical advice on the best next steps to take.

“Patients should also attend appointments as normal, unless told otherwise by their local booking team.”

It comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) said on Friday that pay offers for junior and specialist doctors in Wales have been accepted.

In a referendum, 96% of junior doctors voted to accept a 7.4% additional uplift, taking the total to a 12.4% uplift for junior doctors for the 23/24 financial year, which will be back-dated to April 2023.

The union said 86% of consultants voted to accept a revised consultant pay scale which will improve early years pay and increase career average pay to retain the senior workforce.

Meanwhile, 82% of SAS members voted to accept the offer which will see increases of 6.1-9.2%, as well as an additional uplift for associate specialists – senior doctors who are on closed contracts.

We can’t go on like this. Strikes can’t become ‘business as usual’ for the NHS and patients

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers

When it comes to England, Labour has pledged to open discussions with junior doctors on July 5 if the party wins the General Election.

The BMA has said it stands ready to talk and has already had some discussions with the Labour Party.

During a campaign visit to Staffordshire on Thursday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters: “I don’t want these strikes to be going ahead.

“This is a problem the Government has failed to deal with, and if we’re elected into government we will have to pick it up. What we will do is ensure on day one we start the discussion.”

Elsewhere, health leaders have warned that hospital staff are becoming more concerned about the impact of strikes on the NHS.

The latest round of strike action is expected to lead to tens of thousands of appointments, procedures and operations being postponed.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told the PA news agency: “Trust leaders are deeply concerned about the escalating impact of these strikes on patients.

“Over the last 18 months, disruptive walkouts have led to the delay and rescheduling of 1.5 million appointments – hampering trusts’ efforts to cut long waiting lists.

“With just days to go before the General Election, trust leaders are urging the next government to ensure that resolving the industrial dispute is top of their agenda.

“Investing in staff – the lifeblood of the NHS – is key to building a thriving workforce that can deliver timely, safe, high-quality care now and in the future.”

Junior doctors in England have said their pay has been cut by more than a quarter over the last 15 years and have called for a 35% increase.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said he would not meet the 35%, but there is “space for a discussion” on pay.

A BMA spokesperson said: “Safe patient care has always been a priority for the BMA during the rounds of industrial action. We give trusts plenty of notice of the planned strikes, so that they are able to make the necessary arrangements to planned care and to enable more senior doctors to look after patients.

“We also continue to meet with NHS England three times a day during industrial action, as part of the long-established and agreed process for monitoring the situation and responding to any potential safety issues at hospitals.

“Our commitment to patient safety was underlined earlier this week, when we agreed with NHS England ahead of the strike that a limited number of doctors would be able to work at sites across London where the recent cyber-attack impacted cancer surgery.”

It comes after health leaders said a decision to allow some medics to return to work at hospitals hit by a cyber attack came too late.

The BMA said on Tuesday that some senior junior doctors would be given permission to work at the hospitals during the walkouts to “prevent dangerous delays to cancer care”.

But Government officials said that the timing of the BMA’s announcement meant it was not possible to reschedule all of the surgeries that had already been stood down due to the strike and that consultants required to perform these operations are also still having to provide cover other critical and urgent services during the walk out.

Major hospitals Guys’ and St Thomas’ and King’s in London are continuing to run at reduced capacity following the incident.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Patient safety will be the priority during industrial action and the NHS has prepared for these strikes in the usual way.

“NHS England is working closely with unions to discuss any patient safety concerns and ensuring safe staffing for emergency care continues to be available.”