Impact of health strike on patients revealed

Image: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Image: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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AROUND 10,000 appointments and operations were cancelled during this year’s doctors’ strike across Yorkshire, new figures show, as more action looms.

The news comes as it is revealed junior doctors are to stage five days of strikes over the new contract for training medics.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association.

The strikes will take place between the hours of 8am and 5pm for five days between Monday, September 12, and Friday, September 16, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.

In Leeds alone more than 2,000 outpatient appointments were cancelled in April and more than 300 day or inpatient cases throughout the course of the action over a new contract imposed by the Government.

And the actual disruption caused is likely to be even higher as trusts also did not book procedures once they knew action was planned.

The disruption, revealed by a selection of trusts following a Freedom of Information request, includes the postponement of 1,589 appointments at Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust and more than 100 inpatient operations or procedures.

Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust postponed 263 outpatient appointments while York cancelled 1,418 appointments and 218 operations. Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust postponed 2,673 outpatient appointments.

Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of The Patients Association, said: “The findings reveal the unfortunate impact on patients who may have waited a considerable time for their appointment.

“With daily news of additional pressures facing the NHS, appointment cancellations caused as a result of industrial action, and the prospect of further industrial action later this year, compromises the safety and wellbeing of patients.

She added: “This ongoing debacle between the Department of Health and junior doctors needs to be resolved urgently to reduce the impact on patients.”

The dispute is over a new contract that the government announced would be imposed from the summer. This followed the breakdown of talks between the two sides. The highly controversial contract changes the pay structure for junior doctors in line with the Government’s vision of a seven-day NHS. Earlier this month, representatives of junior doctors called on their union to authorise fresh industrial action.

The Department of Health accused the BMA of “playing politics in a way that will be immensely damaging for vulnerable patients”.

However, the BMA said junior doctors had been left with “no choice” but to start fresh strike action after failed attempts to resolve the remaining issues with the contract. Dr Ellen McCourt, who chairs the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said: “Junior doctors still have serious concerns with the contract, particularly that it will fuel the current workforce crisis, and that it fails to treat all doctors fairly.”

Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said the Government should re-enter talks with doctors.

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