News / Coordinated doctors’ strike action provides ‘nightmare scenario’

31 August 2023 Steve Brown

This will be the first time that junior doctors and consultants have taken action on the same days. This follows a further ballot of junior doctors in which 98% of junior doctors – on a turnout of 71% - voted to continue industrial action, with the mandate lasting for a further six months. news_JulianHartley_LANDSCAPE

Junior doctors have now staged 19 days of strike action since March, with three further days planned on 20-22 September and then a further three on 2-4 October. Consultants have taken four days to date and have five further days planned for 19 and 20 September and 2-4 October. The BMA said that the four joint days of action would see ‘Christmas day’ levels of staffing from both groups.

Both groups are seeking pay restoration, claiming that their pay has dropped by more than a third in real terms in the past 15 years. The BMA said that the government was refusing to ‘even enter talks with either group to try to bring and end to the disputes’.

BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said the government could be in no doubt about doctors’ shared determination to ‘reverse the crisis the NHS is in’. ‘It is only by cooperating with doctors that the government has a chance of addressing the recruitment and retention crisis the NHS workforce is suffering,’ he said. ‘Our message is simple: work with us, negotiate with us both and we can look forward, not to months of more walkouts, but instead to a bigger, better-valued and more effective medical workforce fit for the future.’

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation described the joint walkout as a ‘nightmare scenario’ and a ‘step too far’. ‘Further industrial action is the last thing the NHS needs as we head into winter,’ he said. ‘It will pile more pressure on local services and harm efforts to reduce waiting lists. Having both sets of doctors out at the same time will present huge operational challenges to the NHS.’

Julian Harley (pictured), chief executive at NHS Providers said the coordinated strike action was a ‘serious escalation’ in the dispute. ‘Trust leaders understand doctors’ reasons for striking, but patients are paying the price,’ he said. ‘Nearly one million appointments have already been pushed back since industrial action started in December. This number grows with every strike, further delaying care and jeopardising vital work to bear down on backlogs, including the government’s key pledge to cut the waiting list.’

Sir Julian added that staff morale would take another big hit, while the action to date had already cost the NHS an estimated £1bn in lost income and expensive cover for staff.