Worst NHS disruption when junior doctors strike for three days

A strike by junior doctors next week will cause the worst disruption to the healthcare system, delaying the treatment of thousands of people, NHS leaders have warned. Medics have been on strike for 72 hours since Monday after more than 36,000 members of the British Medical Association (BMA) voted in favor of the strike.

They blamed a 26 percent cut in real wages since 2008, while the BMA called a recommended 3.5 percent increase for next year’s NHS staff “offensive”.

Negotiations between representatives of the BMA and the Minister of Health have not yet broken the deadlock.

No derogations – strike exceptions for essential services – have been agreed nationally, NHS England said on Friday evening.

NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powys said: “While we are doing our best to avoid rescheduling appointments, there is no doubt that disruptions will be much more serious than before. Patients who have been waiting for a while will experience delays in many areas of treatment.

“Where there are delays, we will try to rebook as quickly as possible.

“However, it is vital to attend scheduled meetings unless otherwise noted.”

There are about 61,000 junior doctors in England, about half of the medical staff.

Of the 37,000 who voted, 98 percent were in favor of the strike.

Their protest followed months of strikes by nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists.

As a result, nearly 142,000 appointments and procedures were delayed.

Sir Stephen urged the public to call 999 or visit the emergency room only during the strike period when there is an immediate threat to life.

He explained: “We have no choice but to prioritize emergency and intensive care in terms of patient safety.

“We ask the public to help us and use 111 online as well as local services like general practice and pharmacies as first points of call, but people should of course always use 999 for life threatening emergencies.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the scale of disruption next week was likely to be “the likes of which the NHS has not seen since the strikes started last December.”

He added: “We are disappointed that the government and the BMA have not been able to stop the upcoming strikes by junior doctors, especially after the positive steps taken with other unions. Junior doctors perform many vital functions and these strikes will affect all NHS funds in the country within 72 hours.

“This is not about blaming: both sides must show a willingness to compromise and stop these strikes without delay.”

Meanwhile, some hospital leaders have expressed concern that both ministers and the public are not fully aware of the serious damage risk a strike could cause, according to the Health Service Journal.

One senior leader said: “There is a widespread fear that we are sleepwalkers. I’m guessing there’s a lot of talk and activity going on that we don’t currently know about.

“But we face a real risk that next week will be much more difficult and possibly dangerous than any strike so far.”

Another added: “Junior physicians are not freshly qualified students – they form the backbone of day-to-day medical management in our services. I am concerned that we may give false confidence in the quality of services we can offer next week.”

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