Junior doctors' strike to force people to spend Christmas in hospital
Junior doctors’ strike will force thousands of patients to spend Christmas in hospital as staff walk out for three days this week ahead of a six-day stoppage in the New Year
- Health leaders said the strike action leaves patient safety in a ‘precarious state’
Thousands of patients face being stuck in hospital over Christmas as junior doctors embark on the most disruptive strike in NHS history.
The medics start a three-day walkout from 7am today and will return on Saturday before embarking on a mammoth six-day stoppage from January 3.
Health leaders said the action, which has already forced one A&E to close, leaves patient safety in a ‘precarious state’ at the busiest time of the year.
And they warned that ‘patients are the ones being left to pick up the pieces of this dispute’ with yet more operations and appointments cancelled.
Thousands more are set to endure the ‘misery of being stuck in a hospital bed’ over Christmas due to discharge delays. The Prime Minister said last night that the continued strikes were ‘very disappointing’ and urged members of the British Medical Association to settle.
Thousands more are set to endure the ‘misery of being stuck in a hospital bed’ over Christmas due to discharge delays (File Photo)
Rishi Sunak told the Commons Liaison Committee: ‘The question for the junior doctors is as to why they are refusing to accept something that everyone else is now accepting, on top of having a pay increase which is more generous than anyone else’s set by the independent body going into this.’
Nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics have all called off action following pay talks, while consultants are to vote on an offer their leaders have accepted.
But junior doctors rejected an extra three per cent pay increase on top of an average 8.8 per cent pay rise for 2023-24.
The stalemate has resulted in the latest walkouts, which caused Cheltenham A&E to close last night until Saturday. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said no minor injury and illness unit services will be provided. It will also restrict treatment over Christmas and New Year.
Hospitals have been gearing up to discharge healthier patients sooner, with NHS chief Amanda Pritchard admitting that reduced staffing caused by the doctors’ strikes slows down discharges.
Junior doctors rejected an extra three per cent pay increase on top of an average 8.8 per cent pay rise for 2023-24
The medics start a three-day walkout from 7am today and will return on Saturday before embarking on a mammoth six-day stoppage from January 3
The Prime Minister said last night that the continued strikes were ‘very disappointing’ and urged members of the British Medical Association to settle
Around 13,000 people a day deemed medically well enough to leave hospital are stuck on wards, largely due to limited social care and community services capacity. But NHS data shows the number discharged from hospital fell in the last period of industrial action.
Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘Trusts are doing everything they can to enable people to get home as soon as they’re well enough but the strikes are bound to have an impact.’
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But some of the 12,000 patients analysed want a return to traditional appointments, the study published in the British Journal of General Practice revealed.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was ‘so sad’ elderly patients in particular could remain in hospital unnecessarily over Christmas.
Experts said the impact on services would be long-lasting and could jeopardise efforts to tackle waiting lists.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘There is no doubt these strikes are coming at the worst possible time, with the NHS entering the most difficult period of the year.’
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director at NHS England, said hospitals have been working ‘incredibly hard’ to get people safely discharged before Christmas if they are well enough.
Age UK, NHS Confederation, Healthwatch England, National Voices and The Patients Association, in a letter to the BMA and the Government, wrote: ‘Our concern is that, despite the best efforts of hard-working NHS staff, it will be extremely difficult to ensure safe and effective care during this period.’
BMA council chair, Professor Phil Banfield, replied that NHS trusts had ‘plenty of time with proper planning, resources and additional staffing, to discharge [patients] prior to strike action this week’.
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