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Around 1,000 procedures and appointments postponed as junior doctors await ‘credible’ pay offer

Posted on - 6th January, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Preston News
Royal Preston Hospital Emergency Department Pic: Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Preston Hospital Emergency Department Pic: Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Around 1,000 pre-planned procedures and outpatient appointments have been postponed at the Royal Preston and Chorley Hospital during the latest round of strike action by junior doctors, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands.

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The six-day, England-wide walkout – which began yesterday – is the longest in NHS history and is part of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) ongoing pay dispute with the government.

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Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), which runs Central Lancashire’s two hospital facilities, says that the strike – during what is traditionally the busiest time of year for urgent and emergency care – has caused “significant disruption” to scheduled work as well.

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Patients whose appointments have been delayed have been informed and their slots are being rebooked according to clinical need.

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The BMA has been demanding a 35 per cent pay rise in order to claw back the money that it says junior doctors have lost as a result of 15 years of below-inflation wage increases.

The union says that the dispute could be resolved if the government put a “credible offer” on the table – but ministers are refusing to negotiate unless industrial action is called off first.

Across the country, more than 20 NHS trusts made requests to the BMA during the first 24 hours of the strike for members to return to work under an agreed procedure for when services are under particular pressure.    None of the appeals for help were granted –  and the union accused NHS leaders of trying to undermine the walkout.  The trusts who made the requests have not been identified, so it is not known whether any came from Lancashire.

LTH’s interim chief operating officer Imran Devji told the LDRS that the trust’s emergency departments and inpatient wards were “experiencing pressures” during the strike.

“But we are working hard to ensure adequate staffing through the entirety of urgent care pathways, urgent elective cases and other critical services ensuring safe care.

 “The strikes have caused significant disruption to our elective activity, but we have only rescheduled appointments and procedures where necessary and will rebook immediately – where possible – taking into account clinical urgency.

 “Although this period of strike action is the longest in NHS history, we are well prepared and have plans in place to ensure all our patients are cared for as safely and as quickly as possible.

“I would like to thank all our colleagues for their hard work during this busy time, as well as our patients and community for their continued support and understanding,” Mr. Devji added.

Patients who need urgent medical care are being told still to seek it during the strike – especially in emergency and serious life-threatening situations. Junior doctors will return to work at 7am on 9th January.

The LDRS sought to speak to a Lancashire BMA representative about the issues raised in this report.

The co-chairs of the union’s junior doctors’ committee – Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi – said at the beginning of the current stoppage on Wednesday: “Doctors would have liked to start the new year with the hope of an offer on pay that would lead to a better-staffed health service and a better-valued profession.

“Instead, doctors are still set to be paid £15.50 an hour and are being forced to go back out on strike by a government that cannot get its act together and make the reasonable offer on pay it knows it eventually must.

“We spent the holiday period hoping we would get the ‘final offer’ that the health secretary had promised us last year. Sadly, we have received no such offer, despite repeatedly saying we would meet for talks any time over Christmas. We will continue to offer to meet throughout these coming strikes. All we need is a credible offer we can put to members and we can call off these strikes.

“Morale across the health service is at an all-time low. 15 years of pay erosion have meant a 26 per cent real-terms pay cut for an increasingly undervalued workforce who are overstretched and left yet again to carry the burden of years of the neglect and decline this government has overseen. Many will be wondering if their chosen career is still worth pursuing – the government has the chance to show those doctors they still have a future working in this country.”

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday that pay deals struck with other healthcare unions showed that striking junior doctors were “outliers”.

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“We have sought to come to a fair resolution – fair for the taxpayer, fair for hard-working doctors and health workers.

“We have achieved that in the majority of cases…[and] we are willing to have further discussions –  but obviously the first thing to do is to stop striking,” Reuters reported the spokesperson as saying.

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