Patients have been left in tears after being told their NHS appointment has been cancelled due to the strikes — with some having to wait more than a month for it to be rescheduled.
Shaun Howe, a delivery driver from the Isle of Wight whose knee replacement is infected, said he was ‘devastated’ when his appointment was postponed and warned that lives are at risk due to delays in care.
Lauren Golding, a construction worker from Essex who is suffering from severe tummy pain that is yet to be diagnosed, said she cried when her appointment was cancelled because ‘she was so distressed’ and has been told she faces a six-week wait for a new date.
Other patients have shared how they have had up to two appointments postponed at the last minute due to mass walkouts by medics, including for cancer surgery, and have been ‘left suffering’ as a result.
NHS junior doctors and consultants have been accused of ‘going against the ethics of medicine’ after taking to picket lines today to stage the most disruptive strike in NHS history, with more than 100,000 cancellations expected.
Shaun Howe, a delivery driver from the Isle of Wight whose knee replacement is infected, said he was ‘devastated’ when his appointment was cancelled and warned that lives are at risk due to delays in care
Lauren Golding from Essex, who is suffering from severe tummy pain that is yet to be diagnosed, said she cried when her appointment was cancelled because ‘she was so distressed’ and has been told she faces a six-week wait for a new date
Junior doctors are joining forces with consultants in the first of a series of co-ordinated walkouts designed to ‘maximise disruption’. Pictured: Striking NHS medics outside University College Hospital in central London on September 20
The consultant strike action is running until 7am on Thursday, while junior doctors are staging their own action from today, which will wrap up at 7am on Saturday.
Top medics warned said the ‘awful scenario’ will put patients at ‘the highest level of risk in living memory’, and affect ‘many more groups of patients who haven’t been disrupted by previous strikes’.
Many patients are experiencing second or third delays to treatment. Cancer patients could be at particular risk, with ‘some of the very sickest patients maybe suffering the most’.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which is coordinating the walkouts, argues that the medics have seen their pay be eroded by 35 per cent over the last 15 years. As a result, junior doctors have called for a full 35 per cent pay uplift, while consultants set their pay demand 11 per cent.
For comparison, the Government has offered junior doctors a pay rise between 8.1 and 10.3 per cent, while consultants have been offered six per cent.
Mr Howe, 53, said he believes ‘doctors aren’t paid enough’ but questioned why both junior doctors and consultants have to strike at the same time.
The father-of-two said: ‘How many lives are going to be sacrificed for these strikes?
‘These people that are not very well in hospitals, and need these things done to them, all of a sudden that could get put back a day, but that could be a life.’
Mr Howe, who now struggles to walk due to his knee infection, said he fears his cancelled appointment will exacerbate his declining mental health.
He said: ‘I’m devastated. When you have this injury, you can easily get very depressed, and I’ve already had that situation.
‘I’m not depressed now but I know it’s coming, you can feel it.’
Ms Golding, 36, said that while she ‘understands’ why doctors are striking, ‘someone has got to take a bit of responsibility’.
She suffers from ‘debilitating’ tummy pain that she fears may be a problem with her ovaries and that delays could after her fertility. She has also experienced hair loss.
Ms Golding said: ‘If I have an outburst with my tummy, it knocks me off my feet for a week.
‘I can’t move and there’s shooting pain down my legs.
‘I normally have to have time off work because I can’t drive because the pain is so severe.’
She said her wait for NHS care has been ‘dehumanising’ and she feels like she has ‘become a number’ as there is so many people in the queue for treatment.
Ms Golding added : ‘I don’t know if it’s something to do with my ovaries and whether or not I can have children.
‘As a 36-year-old that, to me, is very on my heart because I’d love to have children and I’m hoping that it’s not going to be anything as serious as that but that can’t be helped in the back of your mind.’
When she was told her appointment was cancelled due to the strikes, she sat on her bed and ‘cried because I was so distressed because of my hair coming out’, Ms Golding said.
She added: ‘I still feel really emotional about it. I still feel really frustrated with the whole system.’
Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, confirmed today that nearly 900,000 procedures have been disrupted due to industrial action and the figure ‘will certainly rise today and over the next few days’.
Consultants in England have taken to the picket lines on four separate days so far this summer, while junior doctors have staged 19 days of strike action this year. Both will return to the picket lines together on October, 2, 3 and 4. Radiographers are also set to join medics by walking out for 24 hours from 8am on October 3. The strike days also coincide with Rishi Sunak’s first Tory party conference as leader and prime minister
Some 885,154 appointments have been postponed since NHS industrial action — which has involved staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics — kicked-off in December. If all community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to more than 940,000 — though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data
England’s backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million, official figures revealed last week. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony
He told Sky News: ‘Today we are in unprecedented uncharted territory.
‘It’s quite simply the first time we have seen this sort of joint industrial action where consultants and junior doctors are walking out on the same day.
‘Christmas levels of cover are being maintained — so we are ensuring that emergency care will be going ahead as planned — but of course that will be more fragile than usual and tens of thousands of routine appointments and procedures will be disrupted, cancelled and rescheduled.’
Sir Stephen warned that the ‘Christmas Day’ cover means medics are working on rotas normally seen around the festive period, when there is a drop in demand.
He said: ‘Today is not Christmas day. We expect that demand will be very close to normal, so there will be fragility in those emergency services, which is why we’re asking once again for the public to use services wisely.
‘Over the next three weeks, we’re going to see the equivalent of eight Christmas Days. This is not just a one off, this is going to cause major disruption as we go through the next few weeks too.’
Sir Stephen noted that the walkouts are ‘frustrating for everybody’, especially patients ‘who are seeing their appointments disrupted and rescheduled’.
Many routine hospital appointments and treatments, including cancer care, have been postponed as a result of both junior doctor and consultant strikes.
Some hospitals have had to halve their normal levels of activity on strike days.
But patients have been urged to still attend their appointment if they have not been told it is cancelled — as some doctors are still working.
‘Christmas Day’ cover is in place throughout hospitals on Wednesday, with emergency units staffed and a basic level of cover on wards.
On Thursday and Friday — during the junior doctor strike — there will be a ‘full strike’ meaning consultants will be used to provide cover in hospitals.
GP services and pharmacies are expected to operate normally during the strikes, though some junior doctors work at GP surgeries, so some practices may be affected from Wednesday.
The NHS has declared 22 critical incidents — when a NHS trust is unable to deliver critical services, meaning patients could be at risk — since health service strikes began in December, the Department of Health revealed today.
This has seen critical care patients transferred to other hospitals due to staffing shortages, while cancer surgery and treatment were postponed.
Meanwhile, it was revealed today that, due to a shortage of staff triggered by the strikes, the NHS is paying thousands of pounds for doctors to cover shifts.
In one case, University Hospitals Plymouth paid a consultant more than £3,000 to cover a 12-and-a-half-hour night shift, supposed to be covered by a junior doctor, according to a BBC Freedom of Information request.
The sky-high fee is set out in the BMA’s rate card, which it tells doctors to demand when covering striking medics’ shifts. It recommends charging up to £269 an hour for night shifts.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘This is likely to be the biggest walkout the NHS has ever seen, will cause serious disruption, and put patients at the highest level of risk in living memory.’
This week’s industrial action, which began yesterday with consultants and continues until Friday with a three-day junior doctors walkout, may see more than 100,000 operations and appointments cancelled, NHS bosses warned. Pictured: Striking NHS medics outside Whittington Hospital in London on September 20
Pictured: NHS consultants and junior doctors carry placards as they strike outside St. Thomas’ hospital in London on September 20
He added: ‘Consultants and junior doctors walking out together is the awful scenario health leaders have long feared, and now face a tough few days in their efforts to maintain patient safety, ahead of a longer, more difficult clear-up of the fallout.
‘We suspect that, despite our members preparing thoroughly in advance, we may see more than 100,000 operations and appointments cancelled this time around, taking the total to well over a million.’
Health leaders warned patients to expect five ‘Christmas Days’ in the next three weeks, meaning most non-emergency care has been cancelled.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay accused the British Medical Association of ‘increasing militancy’.
Yesterday, he launched a consultation into proposed minimum service laws, which could order medics off picket lines and into hospitals during strike action to ring fence patient care.
Writing in the Daily Express, Mr Barclay revealed that unions that fail to provide enough medics to cover strike days could be slapped with £1million fines under the new rules, which, if passed, are not expected to come into effect until next year.
He said: ‘The BMA or other unions who deliberately breach the service levels would face fines up to a £1million.
‘It’s worth reiterating doctors in training have received a fair and reasonable pay rise – as recommended by the independent pay review body.’
The British Medical Association (BMA), which is coordinating the walkouts, argues that the medics have seen their pay be eroded by 35 per cent over the last 15 years. Pictured: Consultants and junior doctors striking outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle on September 20
The consultant strike action is running until 7am on Thursday, while junior doctors are staging their own action from today, which will wrap up at 7am on Saturday. Pictured: NHS medics outside University College Hospital in London on September 20
Professor Karol Sikora, a leading consultant oncologist, said the coordinated strikes were ‘storing up big problems for patients in the future’.
He added: ‘For doctors to strike is against the ethics of medicine.
‘If you miss cancer and someone goes for another two years without a diagnosis, it’s as good as leaving someone in the gutter bleeding… people will die.’
Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said staff felt forced into taking strike action, adding that while pay had been eroded, workloads had increased.
But there is no sign of the strikes coming to an end anytime soon. The Health Secretary and the BMA have not met in more than three months.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that they pay offer the Government has granted is fair and final.
But BMA leaders have said they will only call off action if presented with a higher pay uplift and ‘cannot cancel strikes to simply enter talks’.
This suggests that there is no end in sight, with the union warning that without an agreement, strikes will continue into winter.
Conciliation service Acas said it stands ‘ready to help’ end the disputes.
Marina Glasgow, Acas chief conciliator, said: ‘We have a team of experts who are well prepared and ready to help with the consultants and junior doctors’ disputes.
‘Our collective conciliation service is impartial, free and independent. It is also voluntary, which means we can only hold formal conciliation talks when all the parties in dispute agree that the time is right for conciliation.’