Nearly 900,000 NHS appointments cancelled due to striking medics

Nearly 900,000 NHS appointments cancelled due to striking medics, latest figures show after £134,000-a-year consultants staged 48-hour walkout

  • Health service lost nearly 50,000 appointments in latest bout of strike action
  • READ MORE: NHS implies 1 in 11 of all workers will be employed in health by 2036

Brits are in ‘touching distance’ of having lost a total of 1million appointments, operations and procedures due to devastating NHS strikes, health bosses warn. 

In the latest blow to patients, 45,827 hospital appointments in England were rescheduled due to a two-day walkout by British Medical Association (BMA) consultants last week.

A further 1,302 appointments in mental health, learning disability and community settings were estimated to have been also cancelled, NHS England figures show.

It means 885,154 appointments have been postponed since NHS industrial action — which has involved staff including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics — kicked-off in December.

If all community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to more than 940,000 — though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data.

Almost 50,000 NHS appointments were cancelled in the latest bout of strike action by senior medics. Pictured: NHS consultants on a British Medical Association picket line outside University College Hospital on August 25

 This falls short of the 1million cancelled appointments NHS bosses predicted ahead of the 48-hour walkout by senior medics. 

But not all NHS trusts have supplied figures on cancelled appointments, meaning the true scale of the disruption is expected to be higher.

NHS leaders have also said the real impact of strikes is masked by the data, as many hospitals have stopped booking in surgeries and other appointments on announced strike days.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Despite sterling work by health leaders and their teams, this latest round of industrial action has seen the cancellation of 47,129 operations and appointments, taking the total cancelled over the past nine months of strike action to within touching distance of one million.

‘This must stop. 

READ MORE: NHS workforce plan implies 1 in 11 of all workers will be employed in health by 2036 

NHS England published its long-term workforce plan in June, which estimated it will need around 60 per cent more staff by 2036/37 (stock image)

‘The NHS cannot be expected to roll with the punches for much longer, and with junior doctors looking to extend their mandate for industrial action, health leaders are seriously worried that we are potentially sleep walking into the NHS’s very own winter of discontent.

‘All parties need to work together to end this for the sake of the health service.’

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, said: ‘Trust leaders are alarmed by the snowballing impact of the strikes on patients.

‘Nearly one million people across England have now had appointments for hospital, mental health and community care pushed back due to the walkouts since December.

‘On top of that, there is the immeasurable impact of all the appointments that couldn’t be booked on the day of a strike itself.

‘No one can afford this dispute to continue. Talks between the government and unions must resume.’

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: ‘Industrial action continues to have a huge impact on the NHS, and on the lives of patients and their families.

‘This strike took place into a bank holiday weekend, when NHS activity is generally lighter, but many services have for some time avoided scheduling any planned appointments for strike days in order to prioritise emergencies.

‘This means the true impact of this action will be even higher, and as we move into September, the extraordinary cumulative effect of more than nine months of disruption poses a huge challenge for the health service, as staff work tirelessly to tackle the backlog.’

The latest bout of strike action was launched by consultants, senior NHS medics who earn £134,000 in England, on average, and who can retire at 65 on a pension of £78,000 a year.

These figures are before lucrative private work, which NHS consultants can do in addition to their role in the health service, is taken into account. 

Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full-time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357 (top left graphic). However, the same data shows this extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances (bottom right chart)

Analysis by the Nuffield trust found NHS consultants in England were among the top earners in the profession globally

England’s backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony

MailOnline revealed in June that some of the top earning senior medics in the NHS earn close to £500,000 a year, with one in 10 earning more than Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

And a recent analysis suggests consultants in England are among the best paid in the world. However, the BMA has disputed the finding, highlighting that it did not include pay levels in Australia and the US — two nations considered top poachers of British medics. 

Ministers have insisted talks on pay are over after it said consultants would receive a 6 per cent rise.

But the BMA said the increase was ‘insulting’.

The union claims consultants have experienced a ’35 per cent pay erosion’ over the last 14 years.

Strike pain in the NHS is far from over with consultants due to walk out again on September 19 and 20 and October 2, 3 and 4.

This means the grim 1million milestone of cancelled appointments is very likely to be breached.  

As with previous consultant walkouts, doctors will still provide ‘Christmas Day cover’ meaning that emergency care, known as life and limb cover, will still be provided.

Meanwhile the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee is re-balloting members to see whether they want to continue with strike action. As it stands, they can stage no further strikes from September.

It comes as NHS care backlog in England, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million, about one in seven people in the country. 

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