Consultants demand 11 PER CENT pay rise and claim patients are ‘safe’ as they stage 48-hour walkout – despite health chief warning sick Brits face ‘highest level of risk’ during strikes
- Consultants will provide a ‘Christmas Day’ level of service over the next 48 hours
- Junior doctors will also stage a joint walkout with the senior medics tomorrow
- READ MORE: Medics may have to work strike days under new government plans
Senior NHS doctors have demanded an 11 per cent pay rise as they take to picket lines for the third time this year.
Junior doctors will then stage a joint walkout with the senior medics tomorrow and continue their own action until 7am on Saturday.
While sick Brits have been told to use emergency care as normal, health chiefs have warned patients face ‘the highest level of risk in living memory’.
But Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) consultants’ committee, which is coordinating the action, this morning claimed a ‘save level of service’ would be provided.
Consultants walked out of hospitals at 7am this morning as part of a 48-hour strike and are providing a ‘ Christmas Day’ level of service – meaning routine appointments and operations set to be significantly disrupted. Pictured, consultant members of the BMA on the picket line outside University College London hospital in August
The BMA also said it had written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay outlining the ‘key asks’ needed to end the pay dispute.
In the letter sent to the Prime Minister yesterday, Dr Sharma said the BMA has always been clear that ‘strikes could be avoided if the Government was to present us with a credible offer that we could put to our members.’
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, he also said rather than looking at legislation on minimum service levels, the Government should be ‘stopping strikes in the first place’.
He added: ‘This has happened because the NHS staff across across the whole sector are really demoralised, they’re really burnt out and they’ve been forced into taking strike action.’
He said consultants wanted an above-inflation pay award for this year, which in April was running about 11 per cent.
Read more: Minimum safe staffing levels in hospitals could force doctors to work on strike days under new government plans
‘That’s a very similar amount to what was offered to doctors in Scotland and it shows it’s absolutely possible to actually do that, if there’s the right political will,’ he added.
Junior doctors have already staged 19 days of strike action since March, with consultants taking to the picket lines on four separate days.
Last week NHS bosses blamed medic strikes for heaping extra pressure onto already struggling hospitals — with 400,000 appointments rescheduled this summer due to walkouts.
Some 885,154 appointments have been postponed since NHS industrial action — which has involved staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics — kicked-off in December.
If all community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to more than 940,000 — though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data.
NHS leaders also said the real impact of strikes is masked by the data, as many hospitals have stopped booking in surgeries and other appointments on announced strike days.
Fresh NHS data last week also showed around 7.68million patients in England — or one in seven people — were in the queue in July for procedures such hip and knee replacements.
The toll marks the highest figures logged since NHS records began in August 2007.
For comparison, around 4.4million were stuck in the system when the pandemic reached the UK.
But this morning Dr Sharma said the growing NHS waiting lists ‘have not been caused by the strikes’ and ‘were going up well before the pandemic’.
He said this had led to ‘huge pressure on the whole NHS workforce’, adding that ‘the consultant workforce is absolutely burnt out’ and struggling to recruit.
The NHS Confederation however, which represents all NHS organisations, said increasing numbers of patients, including cancer patients, are seeing their appointments rescheduled more than once due to strikes.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the organisation, said: ‘This is likely to be the biggest walkout the NHS has ever seen, will cause serious disruption, and put patients at the highest level of risk in living memory.
‘Leaders are concerned that this dangerous situation is being underestimated by the Government, telling us that this feels much different and more complex than previous strikes, with most reporting greater difficulties in rota planning and having to cancel huge numbers of elective operations and appointments in advance.
England’s backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million, official figures revealed last week. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony
‘This is much worse than before as we’re now seeing patients who have already had an operation cancelled due to industrial action be hit again with a cancellation to their rescheduled appointment.
‘Leaders have also told us that this time round a higher number of operations and appointments for cancer patients are being cancelled, meaning that some of the very sickest patients may be suffering the most.’
The walkouts also come despite consultants and junior doctors being given a six per cent pay rise under No. 10’s pay offer.
At the time, Rishi Sunak said the deal, announced in July for 2023/24, was the Government’s ‘final offer’.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has also said there will be ‘no more negotiations on pay’.
Read more: How much are NHS consultants paid? How does it compare to other health service staff? Salary earning explained amid strikes
Nurses, paramedics and other NHS staff received a five per cent rise and ‘NHS backlog bonus’.
The BMA however immediately rejected the rise, vowing to crack on with strike action.
It comes as the Government this week outlined plans to extend strike laws to ensure more healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, in hospitals provide a minimum level of cover.
The regulations, which could come into force next year, would mean doctors and nurses would have to provide a certain level of cover after being issued with a ‘work notice’ by employers on what is needed to maintain ‘necessary and safe levels of service’.
In July, the new strike law was granted Royal Assent, allowing ministers to impose minimum levels of service during industrial action by ambulance staff, firefighters, railway workers and those in other sectors deemed essential.
Steve Barclay told Sky News this morning: ‘What we’re announcing today is how we protect time-critical hospital services, so things like chemotherapy, things like dialysis, because we recognise the right to strike is important, but we’ve got to balance that with also the right of patients to key treatments.’
He claimed France and Italy already had such measures in place.
But Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the Government’s proposed minimum service levels risk ‘worsening industrial relations at a time when we need Government and unions to get around the table and enter into talks to avert further escalation and disruption to patient care.’
She said: “Strike action in the NHS over the past ten months has undoubtedly been disruptive for patients and staff.
“This legislation – as well as the consultation announced today- doesn’t address any of the issues underlying current strike action, including dissatisfaction with pay and working conditions.
“With unprecedented joint action by consultants and junior doctors just days away, we need government and unions to sit down and talk urgently.”
Last week however, Mr Barclay said there would be no more talks about pay with the BMA, claiming, ‘we made a fair and final settlement in terms of pay’.
Yesterday, NHS national medical director professor Sir Stephen Powis said: ‘The NHS has simply never seen this kind of industrial action in its history.
‘This week’s first ever joint action means almost all planned care will come to a stop, and hundreds of thousands of appointments will be postponed, which is incredibly difficult for patients and their families, and poses an enormous challenge for colleagues across the NHS.’
Emergency care – through A&E departments and 999 – is still available but patients have been told to contact NHS 111 or their local pharmacy for minor health worries.
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