Strikes will cause major disruption over the next week, says top NHS doctor

Major disruption caused by industrial action over the next fortnight will have a serious impact on the NHS, with services expected to face the most challenging period yet, England’s top doctor has warned today.

To ensure care continues to be available for those in life-threatening situations, NHS staff will prioritise emergency and urgent care – with tens of thousands of routine appointments and procedures for patients being postponed each day.

The NHS is facing the longest-ever strike action by junior doctors – five consecutive days – starting from Thursday.

This is followed by the first walk-out by consultants in more than a decade, starting on 20 July, and radiographers striking from 25 – 27 July.

People who need NHS care should use services as they usually would – 999 or A&E in a life-threatening emergency and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.

Patients with appointments who haven’t been contacted otherwise should attend as normal and community services such as GPs and pharmacies are also largely unaffected by the strike.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “We will now see industrial action on 11 out of the next 14 days so we are entering an incredibly busy, disruptive period for the NHS.

“While staff continue to work hard to provide patients with the care they need, the next strike is the longest and most disruptive yet – strikes have already impacted around 600,000 hospital appointments across the NHS, with tens of thousands more set to be affected in the coming weeks.

“Over the next two weeks, people should still seek the care they need as they usually would – calling 999 in life threatening emergencies but using NHS 111 online for other health concerns.

“Our staff are doing all they can, but we cannot continue like this – action is having a major impact for patients in need of routine care, and an increasing effect on NHS services and our hard-working staff as they try to maintain services and address a record backlog.”

Previous action by junior doctors saw between 21,000-24,000 staff off per day due to industrial action.

The most recent industrial action by junior doctors in June saw 106,000 hospital appointments disrupted over three days. This week’s junior doctors’ action is over five days so is likely to see more appointments disrupted, and will be closely followed by consultant strikes.