NHS consultants ‘fear patients will die’ during junior doctors’ strike, Commons told

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting warning of the risk to patient safety during the planned junior doctors’ strike  (PA Wire)
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting warning of the risk to patient safety during the planned junior doctors’ strike (PA Wire)

NHS consultants fear patients will die during the next junior doctors’ strike, the Commons was told on Thursday.

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting raised the alarm over the potential impact of the walk-out planned for April 11 to 14, after the Easter weekend.

He told the Commons: “The strikes planned for next month will be longer than any previous with no derogations planned and coming off the back of the Bank Holiday weekend.

“Patients are worried sick, consultants have written to me to say they are terrified for patient safety. They fear that patients will die as a result.

“So when is the Health Secretary going to get junior doctors back in for talks, take them seriously, and stop these catastrophic strikes from wreaking havoc on patient care?”

Mr Streeting also asked Health Secretary Steve Barclay to clarify whether union calls for a 35 per cent pay rise were a pre-condition as he had claimed, or a “starting point for negotiations” as stated by the unions.

“Can he today clarify which side is correct and who was spreading fake news?” the Labour frontbencher asked as he urged ministers to get around the negotiating table with junior doctors.

More than 300,000 operations and appointments have already been cancelled due to industrial action in the NHS since December, he added.

Mr Barclay claimed that junior doctors’ unions were setting pre-conditions for negotiating.

Responding to Labour, he said: “He questions whether there were pre-conditions attached to those discussions and I have checked the minutes of the meeting.

“There was a list of conditions in terms of a pay restoration of 35 per cent, a range of other factors that they put on the table, that were pre-conditions that the Government had to commit to.”

He also warned that the impact of the upcoming junior doctors’ strike will be “far greater” than previous industrial action.

He said: “I know colleagues and constituents will be concerned about the planned 96-hour walkout organised by unions representing junior doctors.

“We know that during the previous walkout by junior doctors earlier this month, 181,000 appointments had to be rescheduled.

“With this four-day walk-out the disruption and the risk will be far greater.

“Not only because it lasts longer, but because it coincides with extended public holidays and Ramadan, with knock-on effects on services before and after the strike action itself, and because a significant proportion will already be on planned absence due to the holiday period.”

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has accused the Government of “failing to make any credible” offer to end the pay dispute.

Confirming the strike last week, Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctor committee, said: “It is with disappointment and great frustration that we must announce this new industrial action. The Government has dragged its feet at every opportunity. It has not presented any credible offer and is refusing to accept that there is any case for pay restoration, describing our central ask as ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unreasonable’.”

They accused ministers of adding “new unacceptable preconditions” to talks.

The walk-out will take place for shifts starting between 06:59 on Tuesday 11 April and 06:59 on Saturday 15 April 2023.