More than 100,000 surgeries and appointments cancelled during ‘unprecedented’ doctors’ strike


At least 113,779 surgeries and appointments were cancelled during “unprecedented” junior doctor’s strike action earlier this month.

Junior doctors walked out for five days from 3 January during what is normally the busiest time of year for the NHS.

The NHS’s top doctor Professor Sir Stephen Power said the number of patients who had their appointments cancelled is likely to be even higher than the figures show. According to the data 25,446 were absent due to the strikes last week.

Since December 2022 at least 1,333,221 patient appointments have been rescheduled during NHS strike action days.

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Last week a row broke out between the British Medical Association, which represents junior doctors, and NHS leaders over emergency requests for doctors to come off the picket lines to work.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals said: “The government and unions must sit down and talk, to find a way to stop this dispute dragging on. Meanwhile, we wait with bated breath for the results of votes by consultants and by specialty and specialist doctors on pay offers.

“Urgent and emergency care, always a priority during strikes, has been under the cosh during the six-day walkout which came hard on the heels of a three-day stoppage in the run-up to Christmas. Pressure has increased on already stretched services as trusts’ teams work at full pelt at the busiest time of the year for the NHS.”

He said an expected post-strike surge in demand on NHS services, combined with the current cold weather and senior medics needing time off after covering the strikes means there will be “no let up” for hospitals.

The latest data comes after reports the BMA may hold a further ballot of junior doctors to extend their mandate for industrial action.

The action last week and in December came after months-long negotiations broke down between the BMA and the Department for Health and Social Care.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “The longest strike in NHS history has led to unprecedented disruption for patients and their families, and while staff have planned extensively and worked tirelessly to keep patients safe, it comes once again with an enormous cost.

“That cost is clear in these figures – likely to be even higher in reality – with more than 113,000 appointments postponed at a time when services are already under huge pressure from rising flu and covid cases and we are seeing a huge demand for care.

“Medical leaders and frontline staff are telling us they are very concerned about the coming weeks as the cold weather bites and more people may need hospitalisation. This puts an incredible strain on staff who have been covering striking colleagues as we continue to navigate one of the most difficult times of the year.”

He said the NHS will now be trying to “make up for lost time” to tackle the growing elective care backlog.


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