NHS strikes force almost 1.5m appointments to be rescheduled

Junior Doctors attend their picket line at St Thomas' Hospital in Westminster
Junior coctors on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in Westminster - GUY SMALLMAN/GETTY IMAGES

Almost 1.5 million appointments have been rescheduled as a result of strike action across the NHS in England, according to new figures.

The health service has been beset by strikes for more than a year, with walkouts from a number of different staff including doctors, nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists.

The latest strike by junior doctors – from Feb 24 to 28 - led to 91,048 appointments, operations and procedures being postponed.

NHS England said that since strikes began in December 2022, some 1,424,269 inpatient and outpatient appointments had been rescheduled.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, said that medics in training should re-enter talks with “reasonable expectations” with a view to end strike action.

A junior doctor with a sign that reads: £15/hour is not a fair wage for a junior doctor
A junior doctor makes their feelings known during six says of protest by members of the British Medical Association - JONATHAN BRADY/PA

“The impact of strikes on patients cannot be overstated, with thousands more patients suffering delays to vital treatment as a direct result,” she said.

“I want to see NHS staff treating the patients who need their care, not standing on picket lines.

“I am extremely grateful to all the front-line workers who provided vital cover to safeguard patient care over the course of these strikes, and to NHS leaders for their dedication in protecting urgent and emergency care, including time-critical services like cancer surgery.

“Now that this latest round of industrial action is over, I once again urge the BMA (British Medical Association) junior doctors committee to demonstrate they have reasonable expectations so we can come back to the negotiating table to find a fair deal that works for the NHS, doctors and patients.”

‘1,000 hours of routine care disrupted’

Prof Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said: “The NHS has yet again felt the strain of industrial action this week, with more than 1,000 hours of routine care now disrupted because of doctors strikes.

“NHS staff worked incredibly hard to keep patients safe and cover striking colleagues and we are extremely grateful for their huge efforts and for the time and skill that went into the planning.

“Today’s figures show the impact this is having on patients’ lives, with 91,048 appointments postponed in recent days, but we know in reality this figure is likely to be far higher.

“At the same time as battling winter viruses and sustained pressures, NHS staff will also now return their focus to routine care and ensuring those patients who were meant to receive tests and treatment in recent days, do so as quickly as possible.”

Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, the BMA junior doctors committee co-chairmen, said in a statement: “We have now had 10 rounds of strike action which is 10 rounds too many. But the Health Secretary now has the chance to make sure there are no more to come.

“She has an opportunity to come forward with a credible offer on pay, an expectation that we have already made very clear is abundantly reasonable. We remain ready to meet at any time.”