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Fresh calls for talks as NHS strike action risks becoming ‘business as usual’

Urgent action must be taken to avoid strikes becoming ‘business as usual’ for NHS trusts and patients, NHS Providers has warned.

Highlighting the already overstretched hospital, ambulance, mental health and community services, along with record waiting lists, the membership organisation is urging the Government and the British Medical Association to reopen talks to ‘break the deadlock’.

Following the junior doctors’ strike in England on 14-17 June, Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: ‘Trust leaders and their staff continue to pull out all the stops to cushion the impact of strikes with patient safety the top priority. But they are worried about the long-term effects on patients who have their care delayed at a time when waiting lists are already at record levels, the impact on staff morale and the rising cost of paying to provide cover.’

Some 108,602 procedures and appointments were rescheduled as a result of the most recent junior doctors’ strike, bringing the total of strike-affected appointments in England to 651,232 since December 2022.

With radiographers, nurses and consultants currently being balloted about industrial action, July may see the eighth consecutive month of strikes in the NHS.

No sign of resolve over strikes

‘While ministers and the doctors’ union aren’t talking, patients pay the price of the stand-off,’ Ms Deakin continued. ‘The longer that industrial action goes on and trusts have to keep coping with the fall-out from the most significant period of industrial action in the history of the NHS, the less they can focus all of their energy on patients and help to meet the Government’s pledge to cut waiting lists.’

NHS Providers chief executive Sir Julian Hartley highlighted strike action resolution as ‘the elephant in the room’ at last week’s NHS ConfedExpo. The topic remained absent from health secretary Steve Barclay’s speech, in which he focused instead on tackling waiting lists, greater patient choice, investment in technology in the NHS and greater support for mental health patients.

Junior doctors in Scotland voted decisively last week that three days of strikes will take place on 12-15 July unless an improved pay offer is put forward by the Scottish Government.