Impact of strikes is growing, with no end in sight
18 September 2023
Ahead of strike action by consultants and junior doctors this week, including one day of co-ordinated strike action (Wednesday 20 September) by both sets of doctors for the first time ever, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:
"This week's industrial action, including a joint walkout by consultants and junior doctors for the first time, is likely to cause disruption to patient care unlike anything we've seen before.
"The continuing dispute – and the absence of meaningful dialogue between the two sides – is worrying for patients, demoralising for staff, and damaging for the NHS.
"Patients have been left paying the price with concerns mounting about the deteriorating quality of life for those who continue to face long delays to their care.
"Trust leaders have told us that month after month of strike action is also having a huge impact on staff morale, resilience and teamwork with frontline staff growing increasingly fatigued as this dispute drags on.
"The impact is growing and becoming more pervasive by the day. Staff are exasperated at spending valuable time rescheduling large numbers of appointments and preparing for industrial action instead of being able to focus their efforts on reducing record waiting lists and getting ready for what is likely to be another tough winter.
"We have spoken extensively to trust leaders across hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services ahead of the strikes who have raised concerns including:
- One trust who told us they've had to reschedule care for more seriously ill patients who previously may have been protected from strike disruption.
- A trust leader who told us their trust is rescheduling appointments for some patients whose care has already had to be moved because of strike action.
- Another trust who told us that, for the first time, they are planning to deploy volunteers who are invaluable in supporting patients with meals and drinks as well as providing company into the emergency department during strikes.
- A trust leader who said strike action continued to have a negative impact on their ability to discharge patients, adding to pressure across the hospital.
"With nearly one million patient appointments already disrupted due to industrial action since last December, and waiting lists hitting another record high, the prime minister's pledge to reduce the backlog is fast evaporating.
"Meanwhile, with industrial action estimated to have cost the NHS at least £1bn so far, trust leaders also told us they are worried that senior doctors are increasingly unwilling to cover shifts when junior doctors are striking. This could put already stretched NHS budgets under extra strain as trusts face losing even more income as well as the prospect of paying even more to incentivise senior doctors to cover for striking colleagues.
"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."