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Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

UK Prime Minister blames striking doctors for long NHS waiting lists

3rd August 2023

The UK Prime Minister has blamed striking doctors for long NHS waiting lists, saying that the industrial action is the reason patients have to wait for appointments.

Speaking on the LBC radio station on 2 August, Rishi Sunak said that despite the Government’s offer of a 6% pay rise, ‘we still have groups of people’ who are striking and ‘that is the reason waiting lists are going up’.

After the pay offer was announced last month, Mr Sunak had appealed ‘in particular’ to ‘doctors and consultants’, urging them to ‘do the right thing, and know when to say yes’.

The BMA rejected the offer despite Mr Sunak’s warning that it was ‘final’ and ‘no amount of strikes’ will change the Government’s decision, with both junior doctors and consultants announcing new strike dates.

Mr Sunak said: ‘If you look at what happened, we were actually making progress – we eliminated the number of two year waiters, people waiting a very long time, we practically eliminated the number of people waiting one and a half years.

‘And we were making progress on bringing the overall numbers down – what happened? We had industrial action and we got strikes.’

He said that he was ‘delighted that the nurses and a million other NHS workers accepted the Government’s pay offer’ and they are working ‘really hard’ to deliver for patients.  

He added: ‘But unfortunately we still have groups of people who are not doing that and they are striking – and that is the reason waiting lists are going up, it’s as simple as that.’

The latest NHS England figures for May 2023, analysed by the BMA, show:

  • around 7.47 million people are waiting for treatment, a slight increase on the previous month;
  • nearly 3.03 million of these patients are waiting over 18 weeks;
  • around 385,000 of these patients are waiting over a year for treatment – which is around 307 times as many as in May 2019, before the pandemic began.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s comments, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said on social media: ‘The Tories have run down the NHS over more than a decade and left record numbers on waiting lists.

‘Now Sunak has the audacity to blame doctors and nurses for rising waiting lists. They’re a convenient scapegoat for his failures. He hasn’t lifted a finger to end the NHS strikes.’

Last week, the BMA junior doctors committee announced the next round of monthly strike action with a four-day walkout taking place between 7am on Friday 11 August and 7am on Tuesday 15 August.

Hospital consultants in England went on strike in July, with the next walkout planned for 24 and 25 August.

Junior doctor committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: ‘The Prime Minister has told us that talks are over. But it is not for Rishi Sunak to decide that negotiations are over before he has even stepped in the room.

‘This dispute will end only at the negotiating table. If the PM was hoping to demoralise and divide our profession with his actions, he will be disappointed.’

Consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said: ‘The Government has had seven months to work with us to take our concerns seriously, to listen to us and to find a way to avoid industrial action. Ministers have done absolutely nothing to stop this action taking place.’

Data published by NHS England after the latest junior doctors strikes in July showed that over five days there were 101,977 cancellations of acute inpatient and outpatient appointments and that the cumulative total of acute inpatient and outpatient appointments cancelled in eight months of industrial action now stands at 698,813.

Similar data published after the consultant strikes showed 65,557 rescheduled appointments and procedures over 48 hours.

This article was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.

Image courtesy of 10 Downing Street.

Consultants announce additional strike dates after rejecting ‘final’ pay offer

17th July 2023

The BMA has announced two new strike dates for hospital consultants in England despite the Government making what it called its ‘final’ 6% pay offer last week.

Consultants are already due to strike on Thursday and Friday this week (20 and 21 July) and the BMA said they will now also walk out on 24 and 25 August.

The Government announced a 6% pay rise for doctors on 13 July, saying this was a ‘final’ offer which ‘no amount of strikes’ would change.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘We’ve made it clear this pay award is not up for negotiation and urge those unions still in dispute with the government to end their strikes immediately.‘

But the BMA said it was ‘another real-terms pay cut’ and warned that strikes would continue, and potentially include ‘other’ doctor groups.

The consultants’ strike action will be based on Christmas Day levels of cover, meaning emergency care will still be provided.

BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said: ‘This “final offer” and flat refusal to engage in further talks has left us with no option but to continue our action.

‘We have therefore announced further strike dates in August and will announce further dates in due course.

‘The Government must also understand that we will continue to stand up for consultants and, if necessary, are in this for the long haul.’

He added: ‘The Prime Minister says cutting these waiting lists is a priority but then undermines his own policy by showing he doesn’t value those charged with delivering it.‘

A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.

NHS consultants in England vote yes for industrial action over pay

27th June 2023

The BMA has secured backing for its plans for NHS consultants to take industrial action on 20 and 21 July 2023.

Nearly nine in 10 (86%) of eligible consultants voted in favour of strike action in the ballot, which saw a 71% turnout. Only consultants who are members of the BMA could take part in the vote.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first time senior NHS doctors have gone on strike since 1975.

Their decision will add to the Government’s woes in trying to achieve its targets to reduce the elective backlog, with junior doctors already due to take the NHS’s longest-ever strike action 13-18 July.

‘Repeatedly devalued by Government’

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said consultants had not taken their decision around industrial action ‘lightly’ but the vote shows ‘how furious they are at being repeatedly devalued by Government’.

‘Consultants are not worth a third less than we were 15 years ago and have had enough. Consultants don’t want to have to take industrial action, but have been left with no option in the face of a Government that continues to cut our pay year after year.’

But he stressed that ‘it is not too late to avert strike action and the Government simply needs come back to us with a credible offer that we can put to our members’.

‘We are simply asking for fairness to ensure that there is a pay settlement that begins to reverse the real-terms pay decline that we have suffered and a commitment to fully reform the pay review process to ensure that it can make truly independent recommendations in the future that take into account historical losses so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again. But if they refuse, it is with a heavy heart that we will take action next month,’ Dr Sharma said.

He added doctors will ‘prioritise patient safety and continue to provide emergency care, in-keeping with the level of services available on Christmas Day’.

And he said: ‘Consultants are the NHS’s most experienced, highly-skilled clinicians, and are responsible not just for providing specialist care patients, but also leading entire services and training the doctors of the future. The Government can and must fix consultant pay now and for the future. Failure to do so will lead consultants to leave the NHS and the country, or towards retirement before their time.

‘The loss of this expertise would be devastating for services, patients and the future of the NHS.’

Reopening talks on the cards

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We hugely value the work of NHS consultants and it is disappointing the BMA consultants have voted to take strike action. Consultants received a 4.5% pay uplift last financial year, increasing average earnings to around £128,000, and they will benefit from generous changes to pension taxation announced at budget.

‘Strikes are hugely disruptive for patients and put pressure on other NHS staff. We’ve been engaging with the BMA Consultants Committee on their concerns already and stand ready to open talks again – we urge them to come to the negotiating table rather than proceeding with their proposed strike dates.

‘We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients.’

The Government has welcomed the news that there will be no further nursing strike action as unions have failed to secure required mandates.

In response, a Government spokesperson said: ‘We hugely value the work of nurses and welcome the end to hugely disruptive industrial action so staff can continue caring for patients and cutting waiting lists.

‘More than one million eligible NHS staff are receiving their pay rise and one-off payments this month, with an experienced nurse receiving over £5,100 in extra pay across last year and this year. We are committed to supporting nurses to continue to progress and develop, including as part of the upcoming NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

‘We hope other unions who remain in dispute with the Government recognise it is time to stop industrial action and move forward together.’

Radiographers in the UK have also recently been balloted over strike action. The Society of Radiographers (SoR) closed the ballot on 28 June and the results are due in the coming days.

SoR executive director Dean Rogers said: ‘Radiographers and doctors shouldn’t be having to threaten strike action to get the Government’s attention but unless they listen, engage and revisit their 5%, many more will likely be joining us again before the end of the year.’

A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication Pulse.

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

20th June 2023

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.

Lives at risk during UK hot weather due to radiographic staff shortage, warns SoR

13th June 2023

A chronic shortage of NHS radiographic professionals, coupled with anticipated surges in demand for heart and kidney scans due to the hot weather, will put patients’ lives at risk this week, the Society of Radiographers (SoR) has warned as it urges members in England to vote for strike action.

Already overstretched radiography teams will be putting in excessive hours to meet a rise in A&E visits caused by the current spell of hot weather, and patients arriving into A&E during this time will have to wait significantly longer for vital scans and diagnosis before their treatment can progress, says the SoR.

Hot weather typically means more cases of heatstroke, heart failure and kidney problems, as well as cuts, sprains, fractures and respiratory problems, which similarly need the attention of radiographic professionals, the Society adds.

Dean Rogers, executive director of industrial strategy and members relations at SoR, said: ‘Doctors and nurses cannot do their jobs without radiographic professionals.  

‘Our members are dangerously overstretched. Even when the NHS is not facing increased demands because of the hot weather, nine out of 10 patients will need to see a radiographer, and waiting lists are growing.’

On 19 July 2022 – the hottest UK day on record – there were 638 excess deaths, and 496 excess deaths the following day, according to the Office for National Statistics. The July 2018 heatwave led to a record 2.2 million patients visiting A&E departments in a single month – the highest number since records began in 2010.

Ballot for radiographic staff strike action

Vacancy rates for diagnostic radiographers have risen from 12% to 13% in the last year, and the SoR states that pressure on the radiographic workforce is growing due to widespread training and retention issues.

The SoR is urging its members to vote yes in favour of strike action. Launched on 7 June 2023, its ballot will close at 5pm on 28 June. This follows an indicative ballot in April 2023, in which members voted to reject the Government’s 5% pay offer and non-consolidated lump sum for 2022/23.

Mr Rogers added: ‘We know low pay and poor conditions are forcing radiographers out of the workforce, and they are not being replaced in adequate numbers. Vacancies are running at a minimum of 10 per cent and that’s even with radiographers working considerably more than their contracted hours to ensure that their patients receive the best-possible care.

‘That’s why we’re currently balloting our 20,000 members in England for better pay and working conditions. Every day, the crisis deepens, and this week’s weather will only increase the intolerable pressure on an already overstretched NHS. Our members deserve better. Our patients deserve better.’

Risks to patient safety due to staff shortages have also recently been highlighted by oncology professional organisations in an open letter to the health secretary.