Doctors have been accused of ‘going against the ethics of medicine’ to stage the most disruptive strike in NHS history today.
Junior doctors are joining forces with consultants in the first of a series of co-ordinated walkouts designed to ‘maximise disruption’.
This week’s industrial action, which began yesterday with consultants and continues until Friday with a three-day junior doctors walkout, may see more than 100,000 operations and appointments cancelled, NHS bosses warned.
They said the ‘awful scenario’ will put patients at ‘the highest level of risk in living memory’, and affect ‘many more groups of patients who haven’t been disrupted by previous strikes’.
Many patients are experiencing second or third delays to treatment. Cancer patients could be at particular risk, with ‘some of the very sickest patients maybe suffering the most’.
This week’s industrial action may see more than 100,000 operations and appointments cancelled(Pictured, junior doctors hold placards during a strike)
And in what has been branded by the Health Secretary as a ‘politically’ motivated move, the mass walkouts will be repeated next month to coincide with Rishi Sunak’s first Tory party conference as Prime Minister.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘This is likely to be the biggest walkout the NHS has ever seen, will cause serious disruption, and put patients at the highest level of risk in living memory.’
He added: ‘Consultants and junior doctors walking out together is the awful scenario health leaders have long feared, and now face a tough few days in their efforts to maintain patient safety, ahead of a longer, more difficult clear-up of the fallout.
‘We suspect that, despite our members preparing thoroughly in advance, we may see more than 100,000 operations and appointments cancelled this time around, taking the total to well over a million.’
The mass walkouts will be repeated next month to coincide with Rishi Sunak ’s first Tory party conference as Prime Minister
Health leaders warned patients to expect five ‘Christmas Days’ in the next three weeks, meaning most non-emergency care has been cancelled.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay accused the British Medical Association of ‘increasing militancy’.
Professor Karol Sikora, a leading consultant oncologist, said the coordinated strikes were ‘storing up big problems for patients in the future’.
He added: ‘For doctors to strike is against the ethics of medicine.
‘If you miss cancer and someone goes for another two years without a diagnosis, it’s as good as leaving someone in the gutter bleeding… people will die.’
Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said staff felt forced into taking strike action, adding that while pay had been eroded, workloads had increased.