Over Half a Million Appointments Now Cancelled Due to Industrial Action

MORE than 200,000 appointments and operations were cancelled in last week’s doctors’ strike.

It takes the total above half a million since stoppages began in the winter.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “Today’s (April 17) figures lay bare the colossal impact of industrial action on planned care in the NHS.

“Each of the 195,000 appointments postponed has an impact on the lives of individuals and their families and creates further pressure on services and on a tired workforce – and this is likely to be an underestimate of the impact as some areas provisionally avoided scheduling appointments for these strike days.

“Our staff now have an immense amount of work to catch up on hundreds of thousands of appointments, all while continuing to make progress on tackling the backlog of people who have been waiting the longest for treatment. We have now seen nearly half a million appointments rescheduled over the last five months, and with each strike, it becomes harder.

“While our staff are doing all they possibly can to manage the disruption, it is becoming increasingly difficult and the impact on patients and staff will unfortunately continue to worsen.”

Responding to the publication of statistics by NHS England detailing the impact of the industrial action taken by junior doctors, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“NHS leaders will not be surprised by the number of appointments and operations postponed due to the recent strike action. With over 201,000 appointments and operations postponed from last week’s action, this takes the total number of cancellations across all strikes so far to well over half a million. This strike action is going on much longer than expected and will have long-term consequences for patients.

“Over the four days of the junior doctor industrial action, the NHS prepared extensively and managed to cope relatively well. Our members reported good levels of cover being provided by consultants, SAS doctors and other healthcare professionals. NHS leaders and staff worked closely with local union representatives to ensure the delivery of safe care and minimise disruption for patients.

“However, we should not underestimate the impact on patients whose operations and appointments have now been put back. NHS leaders continue to be greatly concerned by the prospect of further strike action, and this will inevitably harm our efforts to reduce waiting lists.

“If there are to be further strikes, it is vital that derogations are set out as soon as possible and before further action takes place, so leaders can ensure safe levels of staffing, particularly for urgent and emergency care. Otherwise, it will be tougher for NHS leaders to plan and mitigate the effects of strike action, meaning that the impact of any disruption could be far worse than what we have already seen.

“The latest developments following the RCN and Unison ballots have left the NHS in an uncertain position. We must now await the views of other unions before we can know where this might go next.

“We continue to call on the BMA and the government to negotiate and reach common ground on pay, so patients, staff and leaders alike can see an end to this dispute.”