NHS England boss: Patients pay price for strike – BBC News

  • By Laura Kuenssberg & Oliver Slow
  • BBC news

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“Patients pay the price” for the strike, said NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard

The head of NHS England has warned that the strike planned for July in healthcare could be the worst for patients.

Amanda Pritchard says industry’s actions in the NHS have caused “significant” disruption – and patients are paying the price.

This month’s consultants’ strike will bring “a different level of challenge” from previous strikes, he said.

The junior doctor and consultant will be on strike for a combined seven days.

Ms Pritchard told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg program that the work of consultants – who went on strike for the first time in a decade – could not be covered “in the same way” as junior doctors.

“The hard truth is that it is the patient who has to pay the price for the fact that all parties have not managed to reach a resolution,” he said.

Last month, junior doctors in England voted for five days of strike in mid-July – their longest ever strike.

They will be out between Thursday 13 July and Tuesday 18 July after rejecting the government’s salary offer.

A few days after the strike ends, on July 20 and 21, hospital consultants in England will go on strike.

Negotiators for consultants and junior doctors have asked for a 35% pay increase to make up for what they say is 15 years of increases under inflation – a figure that Health Secretary Steve Barclay called unaffordable.

In contrast, junior doctors have been offered a 5% increase this year, which was rejected, whereas so far there have been no offers for consultants.

The consultants also called for reforms to the doctors’ salary review board to ensure these issues are “fixed for the future”. Mr Barclay told Laura Kuenssberg he was “ready to have discussions” on other issues, such as how consultants’ salaries would increase over time.

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he was prepared to negotiate with consultants

“There are things we are open to discussing, but we need to get the balance right,” he said.

Health services have been disrupted by strikes so far this year, with doctors, nurses, ambulance workers, porters and others out in contention, especially over wages.

However, the junior doctors and hospital consultants have yet to reach an agreement with the government.

Health is a devolved issue, meaning it only pertains to the NHS in England.

Ms Pritchard acknowledged that it would be several years before the situation in the health sector returned to a reasonably good state, and emphasized that services were doing all they could to reduce waiting lists.

NHS England says more than 600,000 appointments have been canceled in the previous strike. The continued failure of the government and some medical unions to find a deal will only add further pressure.

Ms Pritchard called for the industrial action to end as soon as possible, saying it could not be “business as usual in the NHS”.

The NHS currently has one out of every 10 posts unfilled, creating immense pressure on staff and leading to long waiting times for patients.

The new plan is focused on training and retaining more staff. Ms Pritchard said the plan was not an “overnight” fix, but that it was part of an effort to “treat people as quickly as possible, without delay”.

Also at the event was former Conservative health minister Lord Bethell who described the current approach to treatment in the NHS as “rationing”.

“If someone needs surgery and you don’t have the resources to give them what they need, then you go beyond essential protocol to allocate scarce resources in the best way and you are defined by the amount of resources you have,” he said.

“I think there’s a difference between a reasonable allocation of resources and making the tough decisions that are part of everyday life, and having to deal with a system that’s overwhelmed with disease.”

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