NHS trust leaders say that they have “never seen this kind of industrial action in its history” after tenth months of strikes and record high waiting lists.
A “historic” joint walkout by junior doctors and consultants this week will cause “unprecedented disruption for patients,” according to NHS leaders.
Consultants in England will walk out for 48 hours from Tuesday and will be joined by their junior colleagues on Wednesday, the latter will then continue their strike over pay on Thursday and Friday, a first by both groups in the NHS’s service’s 75-year history.
Both consultants and junior doctors will then strike together on October 2, 3 and 4.
Those dates coincide with the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester.
Previous industrial action by consultants last month saw 45,800 appointments disrupted and around 6,000 staff off per day due to industrial action.
Staff are expected to work on a “Christmas Day cover” basis for both spells of industrial action, only to provide emergency care.
Ahead of the strike action, NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis warned the health service had “never seen this kind of industrial action in its history.”
He added: “This week’s first-ever joint action means almost all planned care will come to a stop and hundreds of thousands of appointments will be postponed, which is incredibly difficult for patients and their families, and poses an enormous challenge for colleagues across the NHS.”
Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery warned that strikes cannot become a new normal, hitting out at the lack of “meaningful dialogue” between the Government and medics.
She warned it is “likely to cause disruption to patient care unlike anything we’ve seen before”.
Ms. Cordery added: “We need this dispute to be resolved, and fast, but there is a deep and growing frustration among trust leaders at the sheer lack of action to even start to break this deadlock. We cannot allow strikes to become business as usual for the NHS.
A record 7.6 million people in England at the end of June were waiting for routine NHS treatment according to the latest figures released in mid-August by NHS England, with two in five patients waiting more than 18 weeks to be seen. This was up from 7.5 million in May.
Figures obtained through freedom of information requests from the Labour Party in August found that an estimated 121,000 patients died while waiting for NHS treatment in England last year.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’ve already seen 900,000 appointments cancelled as a result of strikes and the co-ordinated action next week will create further disruption for patients and fellow NHS staff. We accepted the independent pay review body’s recommendations in full, meaning doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3 percent pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8 percent. Consultants are receiving a 6 percent pay rise and are already in the top 2 pecent of earners in the country.
“This pay award is final and the Health and Social Care Secretary is clear his door is open to discuss non-pay issues if the BMA call an end to this damaging disruption.”
PA Media contributed to this report.