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Junior doctors branded ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ as they stage 11th strike with 5-day walkout

THIS weekend’s doctors’ strike is irresponsible and dangerous, warns Health Secretary Victoria Atkins.

Junior doctors in the British Medical Association will down tools from 7am today, Thursday, until 7am next Tuesday.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told The Sun the timing of today’s doctors’ strike ‘feels very wrong’

NHS chiefs have warned of “major disruption” and say patients will be at extra risk because of the heatwave.

Health Secretary Ms Atkins told The Sun’s Never Mind the Ballots she is “very, very angry” at the BMA’s cynical move to walk out while ministers cannot negotiate due to the election.

She said: “I do not understand how the junior doctors’ committee thinks it is responsible to call strikes at this time when they know full well the harm that it presents to patients.

“It feels very wrong.”

Six weeks lost to strike action

This weekend’s strike is the 11th by junior doctors since March 2023 and will take the total number of work days lost to 44.

More than 1.4million appointments have been cancelled or postponed.

Experts say it is not the only reason the NHS backlog is stagnant but it is holding back efforts to shrink waiting lists.

Ms Atkins said people are “dismayed” with the timing of the latest strike in the general election period.

She declined to brand the walkout political, but has done so in the past, and added that Labour will struggle to strike a deal with the junior doctors if they come into power next week.

The medics’ demands in the dispute amount to a pay rise of 35 per cent or more.

The BMA keep walking out of the room

Victoria AtkinsHealth Secretary

The Health Secretary added: “It makes me laugh when Labour says they’re going to get in the room with them.

“Well, I have been in the room with them.

“They keep walking out.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, told the BBC’s World at One on Wednesday: “What we have said to the BMA very bluntly and honestly, this side of the election, is that 35 per cent is not a per cent that the government could afford.

“That won’t change if there is a Labour government next Friday.

“We would be willing to negotiate on pay and on the wider conditions that junior doctors are suffering under.”

'THIS WAS ONLY EVERY POLITICAL'

HEALTH Secretary Victoria Atkins said in May that the BMA's decision to strike in the last days of the general election campaign showed the walkouts are political.

The junior doctors’ committee is seen to be left wing and opposed to the Conservative Party – but claim they would not go any easier on a Labour government.

When it announced the latest strike last month, the committee’s leaders said: “When we entered mediation we did so under the impression that we had a functioning government that would soon be making an offer.

“Clearly no offer is now forthcoming.”

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the choice of dates was a “highly cynical tactic”.

She wrote on X: “Announcing this during an election and on Labour’s health day shows this was only ever political and not about patients or staff.”

Heat alert raises patient danger

NHS England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “This new round of strike action will again hit the NHS very hard.

Warmer weather can lead to additional pressure on services at a time when demand is already high.”

Heat health alerts are in place across England this week with temperatures topping 30C in some areas.

Warm weather increases pressure on hospitals as people fall prey to dehydration and heat exhaustion, and face a higher risk of sudden heart, lung and kidney problems.

While the weather will cool slightly during the next five days, NHS bosses say the damage has likely already been done.

The longer industrial action rumbles on, the longer patients will suffer

Siva AnandacivaThe King's Fund

And concerns have been raised about the impact that the strike will have on hospitals affected by a cyber attack earlier this month.

The BMA announced that some junior doctors would be given permission to keep working at hospitals in capital to “prevent dangerous delays to cancer care”.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, it said: “To prevent dangerous delays to cancer care, we are granting a derogation for surgical registrars working on high-risk upper GI, head and neck, and lung cancers at three hospital trusts: Lewisham and Greenwich, Guys & St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital.

“This will help patients who have experienced dangerous delays to their care due to the difficulties of mitigation against the unplanned and malicious cyber attack.”

Siva Anandaciva, from The King’s Fund think-tank, added: “The longer industrial action rumbles on, the longer patients will suffer. 

“So far, official figures show £1.7 billion has been spent to cover the disruption – this is money that could have been spent on other healthcare challenges.”

NHS STRIKES' IMPACT

STRIKES by NHS nurses, doctors, paramedics and other staff have led to appointment delays and cost hospitals extra cash since they started in December 2022.

Here are some of the impacts so far:

  • 1.4million appointments delayed, postponed or cancelled
  • £1.7billion spent on covering staff shifts or dealing with knock-on effects
  • 39 work days lost to junior doctors’ strikes
  • Strikes partly blamed for waiting list increase from 7.2m to 7.57m
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