NHS strikes: More than a million appointments cancelled in England

More than one million NHS treatments and appointments have been cancelled in England due to strike action by staff.

NHS England announced the milestone had been reached following last week’s walkout by consultants and junior doctors.

The true scale of the disruption is likely to be higher – many hospitals reduce bookings on strike days to minimise last-minute cancellations.

It comes amid renewed calls to find a solution to the long-running dispute.

A total of 1.01 million hospital appointments have had to be rescheduled along with more than 60,000 community and mental health appointments since December when industrial action started in the NHS.

But while the large-scale walkouts by nurses, ambulance staff and physios all ended in early summer, the dispute with doctors has continued into the autumn.

Doctor walkouts were responsible for the majority of the disruption during 22 days of strike action by junior doctors and six by consultants.

And the number of cancellations looks set to rise even further next week when junior doctors and consultants stage three days of joint strikes from Monday.

Doctors have promised to provide emergency cover during the period.

The industrial action has contributed to the record 7.7 million people currently waiting for hospital treatment.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has blamed the dispute for scuppering his ambition to get the waiting list down this year.

One of those who has been affected is Tom Nash, 58, from London.

He has a Cholesteatoma, a cyst in his middle ear. He has been on a waiting list since 2021 and has faced multiple postponements – the last of which was because of the junior doctor strike, he said.

“I’m permanently dizzy. I’m fed up, really fed up. I want to return to normal life.

“There are things I want to start doing, projects I’ve not started because I’m just not in the right frame of mind.

“When I’m upright and moving it’s quite unpleasant when I get giddy.”

‘Decisive action’ needed

Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers, which represents trusts, called for decisive action to end the impasse – it is now more than 100 days since the health secretary has sat down with BMA leaders for pay talks.

“How bad does it have to get before we see an end to these damaging and demoralising industrial disputes?

“The immediate concern has to be with patients – more than a million and counting – whose care or treatment has been delayed.”

Ministers have said this year’s pay rise was a “final and fair” settlement and it met the independent pay review body’s recommendations.

Consultants are being given 6%, junior doctors an average of 8.8% depending on their level.

The pay increase mean junior doctors’ basic salary ranges from £32,400 to £63,150, while consultants can earn up to £126,300.

And doctors earn about a quarter to a third more on top of this, on average, for things such as unsociable hours and additional work.

Junior doctors were after a 35% increase, to make up for what they say are years of below-inflation wage rises.

Consultants have not put a figure on what they would like but insist it must be above inflation, to start restoring pay they have lost once inflation is taken into account.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay called it a “grim milestone” and accused the BMA of creating “misery” for patients.

He reiterated there would be no more talks on pay and urged the union to ends its industrial action.

In terms of public support, latest polling from YouGov show 56% support junior doctors, with 37% opposed. For senior doctors 42% support them and 50% are opposed.


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