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Latest Doctor Strike Led to 118,000 Rescheduled Appointments

The longest-ever joint strike by junior doctors and consultants in England resulted in 118,026 hospital inpatient and outpatient appointments being rescheduled, NHS figures showed.

Doctors began industrial action at 7am on Monday 2 October and finished at 7am on Thursday 5 October. At the peak of the latest strikes, there were 27,137 staff absent from work, according to NHS data.

In total, the strikes led to 122,441 appointments, operations, and procedures being delayed across hospitals, ambulance, mental health, and community services, NHS England reported.

A breakdown of the figures showed that 11,162 in-patient procedures and 106,864 outpatient appointments, had to be rescheduled. The highest number of these were in London, where there were 2815 and 30,502 in-patient procedures and out-patient appointments rescheduled, respectively.

Over a thousand (1,013) community appointments needed to be rescheduled, with one in three (338) being in London.

The South West experienced the greatest number (1109) of rescheduled mental health and learning disability appointments, which accounted for a third of the 3402 rescheduled appointments across England.

England's Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said the "co-ordinated strike action and the BMA's hard-line stance on providing strike day cover" had had a "significant impact" on patients.

According to NHS England, since strikes over pay by health workers began, the cumulative total of inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled has reached 1,133.093, with industrial action having cost the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion.

NHS "Had Little Time to Recover"

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said the most recent strike action had been "extraordinarily challenging" as the NHS had had "little time to recover" from the previous round of action. The impact went "beyond planned care", as the focus on patient safety and emergency care meant there was not enough staff to cover other areas, which could "slow down" discharge and take clinicians away from their usual work, he added.

Mr Barclay said he shared concerns about the risk to patient safety posed by "so-called 'Christmas Day cover' when demand is far higher than at Christmas".

Effects Will be Felt for Months

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the recently released figures "confirm the sheer scale of disruption faced by patients", and warned that the effects would be "felt for weeks and months to come".

Patients continued to pay a "heavy price" for the ongoing failure by all parties involved to resolve the pay dispute, which was having a "huge impact" on staff morale, resilience, and teamwork.

The frequency of the "debilitating" strikes was making it incredibly difficult for services to recover from their effects, according to Mr Barclay, who reiterated his view that doctors had received a "fair and reasonable pay rise".

The BMA has demanded that the Government come forward with a "credible" pay offer and suggested involving the conciliatory body ACAS in talks. BMA council chair Phil Banfield vowed that the union was ready to continue striking until the next general election, "if that's what it takes".

"We need this dispute to be resolved but trust leaders are growing increasingly exasperated by the deadlock," highlighted Sir Julian. "Strikes must not be allowed to become the status quo."

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