The NHS is facing another period of significant disruption this week, with potentially thousands more appointments and procedures postponed due to the latest round of industrial action by junior doctors.
From 7am on Friday 11 August until 7am on Tuesday 15 August, junior doctors across England will be on strike, as the NHS enters the ninth month of industrial action across its services.
This is the fifth strike from junior doctors, meaning services have seen over 450 hours without a third of the medical workforce over the last five months – the equivalent of 19 full days.
Following a recent ruling by the High Court, employers can no longer use agency staff to fill in for striking workers during industrial action, which means some of the cover arrangements used during previous strikes will not be possible. However, the ruling does not apply to a hospital’s own ‘bank’ staff, and NHS Employers has provided guidance to trusts on this issue.
To date, around 778,000 hospital appointments across the NHS have been disrupted due to strikes, with over 458,000 staff shifts interrupted. Previous action by junior doctors saw up to 20,000 staff off per day due to industrial action and the most recent industrial action by junior doctors in July saw 102,000 hospital appointments disrupted over five days.
The NHS will continue to prioritise emergency care during industrial action – the public should continue to use 999 in life threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.
NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “This latest round of junior doctors strikes will again significantly disrupt services for patients and the additional challenge this time is that organisations are unable to use agency workers to cover staff out on strike. It is also a period of time where NHS staff often take annual leave, so there are already gaps in the workforce.
“We will continue to prioritise emergency care, but it inevitably means that many thousands of appointments will need to be postponed.
Please continue to use 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency and 111 online for anything non-urgent. GPs and pharmacies are also open and largely unaffected by strikes. If you have an appointment and haven’t been told it’s been postponed, it’s also vital you turn up as normal.
“While NHS staff are doing all they can to manage, there is no doubt that the cumulative impact of strikes increases with each action, as the NHS continues to tackle the biggest backlog in its history.”