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NHS Officials Warn Against Disruption Ahead of New Round of Strikes

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This week, millions of NHS workers will strike once again as pay disputes between workers and the government rumbles on. On Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th of September, NHS consultants will be taking industrial action while from Wednesday to Friday, junior doctors will also be on strike.

The latest action follows a long list of strikes that have taken place since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister last year and while the government have managed to resolve conflict with nurses and teachers, there is seemingly no end in sight for protesting junior doctors.

In preparation for this week’s industrial action, senior NHS officials have sent a stark warning to the government that they are set to cause more disruption than “anything before” to patient care in the United Kingdom. It is the first time that consultants and junior doctors are both striking on the same day.

Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

“This week’s industrial action, including a joint walkout by consultants and junior doctors for the first time, is likely to cause disruption to patient care unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“The continuing dispute – and the absence of meaningful dialogue between the two sides – is worrying for patients, demoralising for staff, and damaging for the NHS.”

NHS strikes

Strike action has been a running theme throughout Rishi Sunak’s tenure as prime minister and last week, he threw oil into the fire when he appeared to blame striking NHS workers for the ever-increasing NHS waiting lists. As things stand, nearly one million appointments and treatments have been postponed since last December – when NHS strike action first started. Now, waiting lists are at an all-time high and there is serious concern about the detrimental impact that is having on the health of the population.

In June, a record 7.6 million were still waiting for NHS treatment while two in five of those patients had already been waiting more than 18 weeks to be seen. It has made life extremely difficult for patients in the country and despite pledging to bring waiting lists down, Sunak failed to confirm whether that would still happen just last week. He said:

“We were actually making progress, we eliminated the number of two-year waiters – people waiting a really long time – and we practically eliminated the number of people waiting one-and-a-half years. We were making progress on bringing the overall numbers down.

“What happened? We had industrial action, we’ve got strikes. I’m delighted that the nurses and a million other NHS workers have accepted the Government’s pay offer and they’re working really hard to deliver for patients.

“Unfortunately we still have groups of people who are not doing that and they’re striking – and that is the reason that the waiting lists are going up. It’s as simple as that.”

The British Medical Association, who are demanding a 35% pay rise for junior doctors, have completely refuted these claims from Sunak, saying that “sustained government neglect of the health service” is the real issue.

Patients are paying the price

In recent weeks the situation with waiting lists and delays has become so severe that some trusts have been bringing in volunteers to support patients with food and drink deliveries. Others have been asking volunteers to provide company for patients in emergency rooms during strikes.

Another issue is that there are reportedly a growing number of senior doctors who are becoming unwilling to cover shifts when junior doctors are striking. On these issues, Saffron Cordery said:

“Patients have been left paying the price, with concerns mounting about the deteriorating quality of life for those who continue to face long delays to their care.

“Trust leaders have told us that month after month of strike action is also having a huge impact on staff morale, resilience and teamwork, with frontline staff growing increasingly fatigued as this dispute drags on.”

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.

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