72-hour strike by junior doctors ‘will lead to cut NHS waiting lists’

Progress on closing the NHS backlog is “under threat” after junior doctors went on a 72-hour strike, health officials said. Tens of thousands are believed to have joined pickets across the country on Monday in the latest violent wave of NHS wage strikes.

The strike was expected to be the most devastating and result in thousands more cancellations for those waiting for help.

Some 140,000 appointments and procedures have already been delayed during months of strikes by nurses, emergency personnel and physiotherapists.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the 60,000 British Medical Association (BMA) members who were eligible to strike made up nearly half of the medical staff.

He said: “Their work will have to be done primarily by consultants, associates, staff positions and other staff, which in turn means significant disruption for patients waiting for scheduled surgeries, outpatient services and so on.

“We are at a point where the NHS is looking to reduce the number of patients requiring surgeries so that no one has to wait more than 78 weeks by April.

“Obviously, this is under threat, given the scale of this action and the fact that already as a result of the strike … we have seen about 140,000 procedures, meetings and so on have been disrupted.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powys, medical director of NHS England, acknowledged that even cancer treatment can be compromised.

He said the NHS is doing “everything we can to ensure emergency oncology procedures are met, but unfortunately even some of them could be affected this week, that’s the extent of the disruption we’re likely to see.”

He added: “If this happens, we will move people as quickly as possible.”

Shivam Sharma was among the picketers outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

He said junior doctors have faced a 26 percent pay cut in real terms over the past 15 years.

He added: “We don’t cost 26 percent less, we don’t do 26 percent less work, we don’t see 26 percent fewer patients. In fact, the job just got harder.

“If you or I are admitted to the hospital in a critical condition, we cannot want our junior doctor to worry about how they are going to pay their bills.

“Something needs to be done – we have to value the doctors here if we’re going to keep them.”

Outside University College Hospital in London, 29-year-old Rebecca Lissman said junior doctors just want to “get paid to match our skills.”

The OB/GYN trainee added: “We cannot give people the services they deserve and take them in as quickly as they need because we are so stressed.

“I want to work, look after people, study. I don’t want to strike here, but I feel I have to.”

It is not yet clear how many junior doctors have joined the strike. Approximately 36,000 people voted to strike during the BMA vote.

The union is demanding a full restoration of wages to 2008 levels, equivalent to a 35 percent wage increase.

BMA representatives rejected the health minister’s latest request to stop the strike on Saturday.

They said they were open to starting talks but would not agree to preconditions, including the cancellation of all strikes.

Mr. Barclay called on the union yesterday Monday to negotiate on the same terms as offered to other health unions.

He said: “We are working very hard with NHS England and with hospital leaders to mitigate the impact of the junior doctors strike. That is why it is so important to have meaningful and constructive talks with them.

“We are ready to interact with junior doctors in the same way as with other health workers’ unions.

“I encourage junior doctors to come and have discussions like other health unions do so we can put strikes on hold and discuss these issues.”

Last night, the BMA urged Mr. Barclay to drop the “unreasonable preconditions” that it claims were hindering settlement talks.

These are said to include continuing to negotiate future wages and limiting negotiations for 15 years on wage cuts to a one-time bonus payment.

The trade union committee of junior doctors accused the Minister of Health of rejecting a proposal for a meeting at 11 o’clock.

Co-chairs Dr. Rob Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi said, “It is Steve Barclay who is stopping negotiations by erecting barriers that he knows our members cannot accept.

“The preconditions are contrary to what junior doctors are arguing about. It begs the question; Does he even understand why doctors are so angry?

They added: “We ask him to drop the barriers he has set up and start talking – doctors and patients deserve no less.”

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