NHS England has said it expects less than 1,150 hospital inpatient admissions to be cancelled today as a result of the junior doctors’ strike.
Ahead of the 24 hour strike, which began at 8am, NHS England said it was predicting 1,425 elective admissions would be affected by the strike both before and after today, along with 2,535 day cases at 151 acute trusts.
“We have tried and tested plans to deal with a range of disruptions including industrial action”
It said it expected 1,148 elective inpatient admissions would be cancelled along with 2,154 day case operations during the first junior doctor strike for 40 years. This is equivalent to 23% of the average 14,500 patients admitted as either an inpatient or daycase, per working day on the consultant-led referral to treatment time pathway.
NHS England said 225 out of 228 organisations submitted data on the expected impact of the strike, which is designed to affect only non-emergency services.
Contingency plans were already drawn up by trusts in preparation for planned industrial action by junior doctors that was cancelled before Christmas, as reported by Nursing Times.
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was expecting less than 10% of its usual activity to be affected. Yesterday afternoon the trust was predicting 7% of outpatient appointments would need to be rescheduled and 32 day case and inpatient admissions were affected.
“Other NHS staff fear that the dispute with junior doctors could be the dry run for a much bigger confrontation”
The dispute between the government and junior doctors centres on plans by the government to agree new terms and conditions for trainees that could see the end of banding supplements and lower weekend pay alongside a rise in basic pay and new limits on working hours.
It forms part of the government’s plans to make the NHS a truly seven-day service and comes in light of evidence that mortality rates are worse during the night and at weekends when fewer staff with less experience tend to be on duty.
Anne Rainsberry, the NHS England director overseeing preparations, said: “We have tried and tested plans to deal with a range of disruptions including industrial action. As ever, the safety and care of patients is our top priority and the NHS has robust plans in place to ensure those who need emergency treatment will continue to receive it.
“We have been working with hospitals and other NHS providers across the country to ensure we can continue to protect the safety of our patients and provide the urgent services they need,” she said. ”We will monitor the situation to ensure these plans are in place, and are ready to respond to any significant increases in pressure in any region over the course of this dispute.”
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our NHS colleagues on this issue”
Other unions, including the Royal College of Midwives and Unison, have offered their support to the junior doctors, noting that political ambitions for seven-day working will subsequently lead to pressure for changes in terms and conditions for non-medical staff as well.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “An NHS where the same high quality care is provided, regardless of the time of day or the day of the week, will not come cheap.
“Other NHS staff fear that the dispute with junior doctors could be the dry run for a much bigger confrontation,” he said. “They suspect ministers also want to axe the unsocial hours payments that they get for working nights and weekends.
“Working additional night and weekend shifts has helped many health staff survive the government’s harsh and ongoing pay freeze. That’s why so many of them across England will be joining picket lines during their breaks and lunchtimes tomorrow to show the health secretary that, while everyone wants to see a seven day NHS, his approach to achieving it is completely wrong,” he added.
Jon Skewes, director of policy, employment relations and communications at the RCM, said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our NHS colleagues on this issue.
“These hard working health professionals are facing attacks on their pay, including on payment for working unsocial hours,” he said. “This is also an issue facing midwives and other health professionals in the NHS, who are facing being paid less for working in the evening, weekends and at night.
“The proposals which have resulted in this strike, including imposition of them, are very similar to those facing midwives. We will be encouraging our members to support their junior doctor colleagues at demonstrations as a show of solidarity between the professions,” he added.
Junior doctors plan to strike again for 48 hours starting at 8am on 26 January, affecting non-emergency services only. On 10 February they plan a full withdrawal of labour including all emergency care from 8am-5pm.
Junior doctor strike dates
- Providing emergency care only – 8am Tuesday, 12 January to 8am Wednesday, 13 January
- Providing emergency care only – 8am Tuesday, 26 January to 8am Thursday, 28 January
- Full withdrawal of labour – 8am to 5pm on Wednesday, 10 February