‘This way of working is not sustainable’, says regional medical director for London.
Nearly 55,000 hospital appointments had to be cancelled in London due to the junior doctor strike last week, according to new figures.
NHS data showed a total of 54,588 outpatient and inpatient appointments were rescheduled across four days of industrial action in the capital – the highest figure of any region in England.
The total includes 4,985 cancelled operations and treatments.
An average of 5,438 junior doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) joined picket lines in London last week, a slight decrease on the average of 5,675 recorded during the previous strike in March but still higher than any other region.
Nationally, more than 196,000 appointments were cancelled during the strike.
Health bosses warned the true scale of the disruption is likely to be higher as some hospitals avoided scheduling appointments on strike days.
The number of cancelled appointments in the capital jumped by 10 per cent compared with the previous three-day walkout by junior doctors in March.
Reacting to the figures, Dr Chris Streather, regional medical director for London, told the Standard: “This way of working is not sustainable – each day of industrial action is an extra day that patients with long term health conditions don’t get the appointment or operation they need.
“It’s therefore vital than anyone who’s had a change in their symptoms or a new health concern contacts the NHS. This includes using 111 online as the first port of call for health needs, and 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.”
A total of 3,310 last minute elective operations were cancelled for non-clinical reasons in the London region between October and December 2022, according to NHS figures.
NHS England cited staff shortages, a lack of equipment and an unavailability of ward beds as among the reasons for the cancellations.
Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee said: “These millions of patients are not in this position because of strikes though. Persistent under-resourcing of the health service and under-valuing staff – exacerbated by a pandemic – mean we simply don’t have the workforce and capacity to provide the high-quality and timely care that patients need and deserve.
“This is why we have been led to strike, and while we are of course sorry to anyone who had their care disrupted, this is the same apology we’re already having to give to patients on a daily basis because the NHS cannot cope.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the strikes were “deeply disappointing” and “clearly had an impact on many patients as well as hampering our efforts to cut NHS waiting lists”.
Separately, members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will return to the picket line for 48 hours from 8pm on April 30 after rejecting a pay offer.