North West braces for first joint strike by consultants and junior doctors in NHS history

  • Video report by Granada Reports journalist Emma Sweeney

Patients in the North West are bracing for the biggest strike in the history of the NHS, as junior doctors and consultants walkout at the same time in a first for the health service.

Emergency care will be covered, but planned care is expected to grind to a halt and thousands of appointments cancelled.

NHS bosses have warned that the health service has "never seen this kind of industrial action in its history" and patients are expected to be severely impacted by the strike.

Consultants are walking out in a dispute over pay on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as three days next month - on 2, 3 and 4 October.

While junior doctors, who have held 19 days of strike action since March, will walk out on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, and 2, 3 and 4 October.

This means that Wednesday’s strike, plus the three days next month, will see both consultants and junior doctors absent from work on the same days.

A total of 51 consultants walked out at the Royal Preston Hospital on Tuesday 19 September, in a 48-hour strike .

On Wednesday, they will be joined by junior doctors as they begin a three-day strike. That means for the first time there will be a day where both junior doctors and consultants are on the picket line together, causing a huge impact on services.

Staff at the Royal Preston Hospital say they have been preparing for the last three weeks by making sure that during this period they prioritise the most sick patients.

The care they are able to provide is akin to Christmas day-type cover - and in light of that, they have had to cancel 120 routine operations this week.

Consultants and doctors insist the key to a resolution was simple.

Both sides say patients are being put at risk Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Earlier this year, the Government did implement a 6% pay increase for consultants, but senior doctors say they have seen their take-home pay fall by more than a third over the last 14 years.

At the Royal Preston Hospital on Tuesday, the 35 beds on the respiratory ward were full.

In the face of reduced staffing numbers, those in charge are having to prioritise.

Professor Mohammed Munavvar, consultant at the hospital said: "I am supposed to be in clinic this morning but I am providing the Christmas day cover - the acute cover on the ward.

"I think I might have had about 20 to 25 patients booked today for a day clinic, but they will sadly be cancelled and postponed.

"We are able to look after the acute patients - juggling various things and making sure everyone is safe."

The level of cover will amount to the same levels as Christmas day at the Royal Preston Hospital. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

This latest round of strike action of course, comes at the start of what is the most difficult time of the year for the NHS - the time where pressures begin to mount.

Coupled with the fact that despite government pledges - waitings lists are already at a record high with 7.7 million people now waiting for treatment.

Numbers of course that will inevitably grow unless there is a way to break the deadlock.

Faith Button, Chief Operating Officer at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals said: "I say this often, our plea is absolutely the government and the unions need to get back round the table and get a resolution as soon as possible.

"It is disrupting the NHS and as we head into winter it is absolutely imperative that we get a resolution to those strikes now."

Doctors say they will continue to take to the picket line if there is no breakthrough.

The next joint strike action is planned to coincide with the conservative party conference in Manchester next month.