'Grim milestone' as number of NHS appointments cancelled during strike action surpasses one million

Credit: PA

The disruption to the NHS caused by strikes has hit a "grim milestone" after new figures confirmed more than a million appointments have been cancelled as a result of the action.

Four days of strikes by consultants and junior doctors earlier in September led to almost 130,000 cancellations, putting the figures over one million total for the first time since strike action began in December 2022, according NHS England data.

If community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to 1.1 million – though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: "Today marks the grim milestone of over one million appointments cancelled as a result of strikes, with co-ordinated and calculated industrial action by the BMA creating further disruption and misery for patients and NHS colleagues."

He said doctors had received a "fair" pay rise and called planned further action "regrettable."

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers. Credit: PA

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said prior to the figures being published: "The immediate concern has to be with patients – more than a million and counting – whose care or treatment has been delayed.

"Trust leaders understand only too well the distress this can bring them and their loved ones. Every effort has been made to mitigate the impact of successive strikes but the rising disruption figures tell only a small part of the story.

"With the official tally of figures capturing those procedures and appointments that we know are rescheduled, thousands more patients will be affected because trusts are simply not booking in care for strike days known well in advance.

"Behind every delay there is a real and human cost. How many more reasons are needed for an end to the dispute?”

Ms Cordery warned as winter approaches and resources are “severely stretched” strikes will become a “wholly unwelcome” burden on the health service.

Junior doctors, who want a 35% pay rise, have suggested they will continue striking until the government makes a “credible offer” that the British Medical Association (BMA) can present to its members.

Credit: PA

Consultants want an above-inflation pay award of 11%.

Professor Phil Banfield, council chairman of the BMA, said: "The last thing we ever want is to cause further disruption to the patients in our care and I am extremely sorry that it has come to this. But these strikes are about the long-term sustainability of the NHS and ensuring there are trained doctors around to care for all patients in the future."

The BBC used Freedom of Information laws to reveal the NHS is having to pay millions of pounds to cover for striking doctors.

Further joint strikes by consultants and junior doctors are planned for October 2, 3 and 4.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The co-ordinated action next week will create further unacceptable disruption for patients and fellow NHS staff.

“We accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full, meaning doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8%. Consultants are receiving a 6% pay rise and are already in the top 2% of earners in the country.

“This pay award is final, and the majority of unions representing over one million other NHS workers have accepted our offer and called off further strike action.

“The Health and Social Care Secretary is clear his door is open to discuss non-pay issues if the BMA call an end to this damaging disruption.”

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