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Double Doctors’ Strike Begins

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Consultants and junior doctors in England are staging their first joint strike in the history of the NHS. Consultants walked out this morning and will be joined by junior doctors on Wednesday morning. The British Medical Association-organised strike by consultants will last two days, while the one by junior doctors is scheduled for three.

Emergency care will be covered throughout, but NHS bosses said patients are still at risk.

NHS strikes

This is the third walkout by consultants and the sixth by junior doctors. Nearly one million appointments and treatments, including some cancer care, have been postponed because of industrial action since December. This includes disruption caused by walkouts by other staff groups including nurses, radiographers and ambulance workers.

This strike therefore marks an escalation of the pay dispute between the Government and doctors. NHS officials warned yesterday that this action is set to cause more disruption than “anything before” to patient care as it is the first time that consultants and junior doctors are both striking on the same day.

During their 48-hour walkout, consultants will provide “Christmas Day” cover – emergency services will be staffed and there will be some basic level of cover on the wards. People needing emergency care are being advised to use accident-and-emergency units and routine services, including non-emergency operations and appointments, are expected to be significantly disrupted.

Junior doctors

When junior doctors join the strike on Wednesday there will be a similar arrangements. Junior doctors account for nearly half NHS doctors – from medics fresh out of university to those sometimes with 10 years’ experience. On Thursday, when the consultant strike ends, junior doctors will stage a full strike, meaning consultants will have to be drafted across to provide cover.

Industrial action taken by doctors has caused the most disruption. Last week, the Shelford Group, which represents 10 of the biggest hospital trusts in the country, warned the scale of the disruption now being seen had “inevitably heightened the risk of harm” to patients.

NHS England medical director Prof Sir Stephen Powis said: “The NHS has simply never seen this kind of industrial action in its history. It poses an enormous challenge.”

Matthew Taylor, of the NHS Confederation, said he feared ministers were underestimating the risks of the strikes, describing the situation as dangerous. Hospitals were reporting some patients were facing having treatments and appointments cancelled for the second or third time, he said.

However, many doctors will continue working. As well as BMA doctors providing official cover during the strikes, these will include specialty and specialist (SAS) doctors, between the grade of junior and consultant, who make up just under 10% of the medical workforce.

The pay dispute

It is more than 100 days since health secretary Steve Barclay sat down with BMA leaders for pay talks. Barclay said this year’s pay rise (Consultants 6% and junior doctors an average of 8.8% depending on their level) was a “final and fair” settlement and it met the independent pay review body’s recommendations. The pay increase mean junior doctors’ basic salary ranges from £32,400 to £63,150, while consultants can earn up to £126,300.

Junior doctors were after a 35% increase, to make up for what they say are years of below-inflation wage rises. Consultants have not put a figure on what they would like but insist it must be above inflation, to start restoring pay they have lost once inflation is taken into account. BMA leader Dr Philip Banfield said if the government cared about patients it would “reopen talks and come to the table with a credible offer”.

And with no sign of an end to the dispute, the health secretary has confirmed he is looking at introducing minimum service levels in hospitals during strikes – defining the number of doctors, nurses, and other staff needed to cover urgent and emergency cover.

“It is about having the enabling legislation that gives a safety net, focused on patients for time critical care,” he said.

The BMA also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, reiterating their key asks.

Final thought

The ongoing strikes within the NHS highlight a deepening crisis in the healthcare system. While the government and healthcare workers clash over pay and working conditions, it is the patients who suffer the most. The skyrocketing waiting lists and postponed treatments are indicative of a system in dire need of resolution, not blame-shifting. It’s crucial for both sides to engage in meaningful dialogue to find a sustainable solution.

In terms of public support, latest polling from YouGov show 56% support junior doctors, with 37% opposed. For senior doctors 42% support them and 50% are opposed.

Curia’s NHS and Life Sciences Commission

Following the successful launch of the NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission’s 2022 Report, the Commission will appraise the outlined recommendations in 2023. This will allow a measurement of success to be taken on each implementation and a review of new priorities for the NHS and life sciences industry. The Commission will continue to review case studies to highlight best practice for the 2022 recommendations. Through a series of sprints, the Commission will highlight real-world experiences in regions across the UK. Through targeted health data mapping, relevant areas of unmet need and health inequalities can be chosen. Each sprint may appraise one or multiple topic areas from the 2022 report.

Upcoming event

Join Members of Parliament, NHS and council leaders, representatives of regional government, industry and the third sector for a unique seminar in Birmingham with keynote speakers:

  • Andy Street – Mayor of the West Midlands
  • Preet Kaur Gill MP – Shadow Minister and MP for Edgbaston
  • Paulette Hamilton MP – Health and Social Care Select Committee
  • Professor Sir Bruce Keogh – Chair, Birmingham Women and Children’s Trust
  • Amanda Sullivan – CEO, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICB
  • Naomi Eisenstadt CB – Chair, Northamptonshire ICB
  • Tapiwa Mtemachani – Director of Strategic Transformation, Black Country ICB
  • Michelle McManus – Director of Transformation and Place Development, Walsall Together
  • Kerrie Allward – Director of Adult Social Care, Walsall Council
  • Connie Jennings – Director of Stronger Communities, WHG

As the only meeting of its kind in the UK, the Integrating Healthcare Seminar series brings together Members of Parliament, Councillors and NHS Leaders to showcase examples of best practice and case studies for others to learn from.

This special ‘Integrating Healthcare’ Midlands Seminar –will focus on improving population health, addressing health inequalities and specific therapeutic areas.

For a fireside discussion, we are pleased to welcome Professor Sir Bruce Keogh and Naomi Eisenstadt CB, talking about How Providers and Commissioners Collaborate to Drive Improved Outcomes. They are keen to hear from you as NHS leaders about your views and thoughts. They want to find out your views and see what more can be done to implement their reviews in practice.

Network with and hear from thought leaders on how the UK can integrate healthcare and improve outcomes across the region and the wider UK.

In partnership with NHS England and the AHSN networks, you will hear the latest in exciting case studies that are transforming the nature of care at a local level.

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