Sense of relief as longest NHS strike in history comes to an end

Junior doctors say their pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008 and are calling for a 35% pay increase, ITV News' Rebecca Barry has the latest

I’m in the emergency department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in south east London - one of the many hospitals where services have been stretched to the limit during the six day strike by junior doctors in England. 

In this NHS Trust alone 3,000 patients have had operations and appointments cancelled during the most recent strike action. 

On Friday, they were at risk of being dangerously short-staffed on the maternity unit here, so a junior doctor was granted rare permission to cross the picket line and come back to work to protect patients. 

I spoke to one consultant who has worked seven days straight covering his junior doctor colleagues, and he told me he won’t get a break until the weekend.

So there’s a real sense of relief here that the longest strike in NHS history is now over. 

But staff at this hospital, and others across England, now have to deal with the aftermath of this unprecedented industrial action - re-arranging the backlog of patients whose care has been delayed. 

It’s too early to say what the full impact has been across England.

But we know when junior doctors walked out before Christmas, almost 89,000 appointments and procedures were postponed in England - and that was just three days of industrial action. This time they walked out for six.  

NHS officials also fear many patients will have avoided seeking care during the strike and that could create even more pressure in the coming weeks. 

Plus consultants who covered for their junior doctor colleagues could now take time off, which could lead to another drop in staff levels. 

And of course, the strikes came during one of the busiest times of the year for the health service. In the emergency department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital all the bays are currently full and patients are being treated in overspill areas. 

Junior doctors in England recently held the longest strike in NHS history, taking to the picket lines for six days. Credit: PA

But one man I spoke to who spent the night in a corridor on the ward was still very supportive of the doctors on strike. 

And it’s not all over yet.

The British Medical Association’s current mandate for strike action lasts until the end of February. The BMA says it “will prepare to extend that mandate in case we need to strike in the future.”

Junior doctors say their pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008 and are calling for a 35% pay increase.

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