QA Hospital: Junior doctors strike begins as thousands of NHS appointments likely to be cancelled

Junior doctors in England are have begun a five-day strike in their ongoing pay row with the Government.
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Thousands of medics walked out on Saturday, February 24 and will take industrial action from 7am until 11.59pm on February 28.

As the strike was due to begin, Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the (British Medical Association) BMA junior doctors committee had "refused to put our offer to their members" and called for more talks with the union.

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She said they had been told the Government had been "prepared to go further than the pay increase of up to 10.3% that they have already received".

In return, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairmen Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: "The Government could have stopped these strikes by simply making a credible pay offer for junior doctors in England to begin reversing the pay cuts they have inflicted upon us for more than a decade.

"The same Government could have even accepted our offer to delay this round of strike action to give more space for talks, all we asked for in return was a short extension of our mandate to strike.

"The fact that ministers have chosen strike action over what could have been the end of this year's pay dispute is disappointing to say the least." The BMA has also not ruled out further strike action.

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Cosham's Queen Alexandra Hospital will prioritise its sickest patients during the strike. Liz Rix, the Chief Nurse at Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust, said: “We will be prioritising the delivery of urgent and emergency services, so that we can continue to safely care for our sickest patients during this next period of industrial action. Due to the high levels of demand that we have been experiencing, some patients are already waiting longer than we would like in the Emergency Department and we expect to see this further impacted once industrial action restarts. We will continue to redirect anyone that could be seen elsewhere, so if your need isn’t life threatening or you are unsure which service is best, please use, your GP Practice or local pharmacy.

“We are contacting any patients who have a planned appointment or procedure that may need to be postponed. If you haven’t heard from us directly that your appointment is affected, please attend as planned. We hope that there will be a resolution in place soon between the Government and trade unions and thank you once more for your patience. All our teams are working hard, so please continue to treat them with respect during this busy time.”

Junior doctors in England staged the longest strike in NHS history in January, for six full days from January 3 to January 9. The latest round will be the 10th strike by junior doctors since March 2023.

Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow health secretary, described the latest round of junior doctors' strikes as having "a devastating impact on patients" but said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has the power to stop it but he is refusing to negotiate.

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He said: "The second year of strikes is having a devastating impact on patients. 1.3 million operations and appointments have been cancelled, costing the NHS billions. Never forget that Rishi Sunak could end these strikes, but is refusing to negotiate. He would rather blame doctors and nurses for the appalling state of the NHS than take any responsibility himself."

Thousands of NHS appointments and operations are likely to be cancelled during the fresh round of strikes, after the six-day strike in January saw more than 100,000 appointments put on hold.

Junior doctors have received a pay rise averaging nearly 9 per cent this financial year. The BMA has been asking for 35 per cent "pay restoration" as its starting position, but has said it is willing to negotiate.

Junior doctors make up around half of the NHS doctor workforce. They can have up to nine years' of working experience as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to five years' experience to become a GP. Junior doctor members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) are also set to walk out from February 24 until February 29.

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