Major NHS Upheaval as Overwhelming Doctors’ Strike Disrupts Hospital Operations

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England’s National Health Service (NHS) undergoes notable upheaval as a three-day combined walkout by junior doctors and consultants commences. This action is expected to severely disrupt hospital operations and bring non-emergency care down to an almost halt, warns NHS England.

The British Medical Association confirms that it will provide cover akin to practices on Christmas Day, entailing emergency care operations with minimal cover elsewhere. The striking lot consists of nearly 80% of hospital doctors; however, a third of them not being BMA members are anticipated to stay apart from this disruption. The initial joint strike was staged just about a fortnight ago, which lasted a mere 24 hours.

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Prof Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, relayed concerns about the challenge the health services face with such strikes coming about in quick succession. Emergency cases are advised to resort to A&E departments or dial 999, whereas for less critical concerns, patients can rely on 111 or GP services, provided they are unaffected by the strikes. Patients would be informed of potential disruptions in advance.

Past strikes have led hospitals to cancel half of their planned appointments and treatments. The strikes that began in December have caused over a million bookings to be rescheduled. The most disruption has been witnessed due to doctor walkouts, even though other health professionals like nurses, ambulance staff, physios, and radiographers, have also striked. These strikes have resulted in a substantial hike in the number of patients awaiting hospital treatment, adding to the record 7.7 million figure.

As per the latest, no future pay discussions are scheduled between health secretary and BMA leaders in over 100 days. Government officials maintain that this year’s pay rise is final and fair, verifying it’s in line with the independent pay review body’s suggestions. Consultants will see a 6% increase while junior doctors can expect an average hike of 8.8% based on their level.

BMA Chairman, Prof Phil Banfield, deems doctors innocent while expressing disappointment over the strikes, highlighting their need for recognition for their skills. Despite the industrial action, public support still swings in their favour. The majority, 56%, supports junior doctors, while 42% supports senior doctors.

In parallel, doctors in Wales are being put up for vote for possible industrial action. Similar preparations are underway in Northern Ireland.