Health & Lifestyle

Patients face SEVEN DAYS of NHS chaos as senior doctors walk out

Patients face SEVEN DAYS of NHS chaos as senior doctors walk out: Consultants on over £100,000 vote for 48-hour strike after five-day stoppage by junior doctors

  • BMA today said senior medics would stop work for 48 hours next month
  • Strikes expected to result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of appointments

Patients face the worst strike disruption in NHS history after consultants announced a walkout straight after one by junior doctors.

The British Medical Association today said senior medics would stop work for 48 hours next month.

The move had 86 per cent backing from those who voted. Covering seven days, the strikes are expected to result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of appointments and procedures.

The announcement came after the Royal College of Nursing halted its own industrial action.

Only 43 per cent of its members voted – well below the 50 per cent legal threshold. But up to 34,000 consultants, who earn an average of £128,000 a year, will now walk out on July 20 and 21. Only emergency care will be provided, with most routine treatment axed.

Patients face the worst strike disruption in NHS history after consultants announced a walkout straight after one by junior doctors (Pictured: Junior doctor's strike in Trafalgar Square on April 11)

Patients face the worst strike disruption in NHS history after consultants announced a walkout straight after one by junior doctors (Pictured: Junior doctor’s strike in Trafalgar Square on April 11)

Junior doctors were already set to strike for five days from 7am on July 13 to 7am on July 18 – making for the longest walkout since the NHS was founded in 1948.

The impact will be even more damaging because there will be only a one-day gap before the consultants halt work.

Health leaders said the ‘double whammy’ would cause widespread disruption to ‘many thousands’ of patients and was a ‘huge risk’ for the NHS to manage.

The combined action is likely to lead to the cancellation of more than 300,000 appointments, hampering efforts to clear record waiting lists of 7.4million. 

It is estimated that more than 650,000 routine operations and appointments have been put off since December due to industrial action.

Some consultants covered for junior colleagues during recent strikes, helping to lessen their impact – but this cannot happen the other way around.

The BMA said it would plough on with the strikes unless the Government made a ‘credible’ pay offer that it could put to its members.

It claims take-home pay for consultants in England has fallen by 35 per cent in real terms since 2008/2009.

Consultants last participated in a one-day strike in 2012 over pension changes.They also took industrial action in 1975. 

Describing the result of the consultants’ ballot as an ‘unmitigated disaster’, Labour’s health spokesman Wes Streeting said the risk to patients and the NHS was ‘intolerable’.

Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee, said: ‘It is not too late to avert strike action and the Government simply needs to come back to us with a credible offer that we can put to our members. But if they refuse, it is with a heavy heart that we will take action next month.’

It is estimated that more than 650,000 routine operations and appointments have been put off since December due to industrial action

It is estimated that more than 650,000 routine operations and appointments have been put off since December due to industrial action

Dr Naru Narayanan, president of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, said: ‘The Government is drinking in the last chance saloon. It has a golden opportunity now to thrash out a deal and reduce current high levels of discontent.

‘It’s also in patients’ interests that it does so, because the NHS needs to remain competitive to be able to retain the experienced doctors it has and continue to attract those we need in future. This tense situation is not just going to go away by itself.’

Sir Julian Hartley of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: ‘This is a huge risk for the NHS to manage. These strikes don’t have to go ahead. There’s still time for the Government and the doctors’ unions to settle their differences and find a way through. The urgency can’t be overstated.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We hugely value the work of NHS consultants and it is disappointing the BMA consultants have voted to take strike action.

‘Consultants received a 4.5 per cent pay uplift last financial year, increasing average earnings to around £128,000, and they will benefit from generous changes to pension taxation in the budget.

‘We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients.’

Rishi Sunak today hosted health chiefs in Downing Street to discuss an NHS workforce plan due to be published later this week.

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