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Junior doctors and consultants both on strike – what do I need to know?

Junior doctors and consultants both on strike – what do I need to know?

Consultants and junior doctors in England are staging their first joint strike in the history of the NHS.

– How long will the strike last?

The joint action is running for 24 hours from 7am on Wednesday to 7am on Thursday.

Junior doctors will also strike on Thursday and Friday this week.

Further joint strikes by consultants and junior doctors are planned for October 2, 3 and 4.

– Will I be able to access NHS care?

Thousands of hospital appointments and operations have already been cancelled and rescheduled, though some patients are experiencing repeat cancellations due to industrial action.

If your appointment has not been cancelled, NHS England is advising you to attend as normal.

On the days when both consultants and junior doctors are on strike, the NHS pledges to provide emergency cover.

People are being urged to use GP services and NHS 111 rather than turning up to A&E, though NHS England says anyone experiencing a life-threatening emergency should still call 999.

– When will the strikes end?

At present, there is no end to the deadlock in sight. It is more than 100 days since Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay and British Medical Association (BMA) leaders sat down for pay talks.

Doctors have suggested they will continue striking until the Government makes a “credible offer” that the BMA can present to its members.

On Tuesday, Dr Vishal Sharma, the chairman of its consultants’ committee, urged the Government to commit to talks, suggesting consultants wanted an above-inflation pay award for this year, which in April was running about 11%.

Junior doctors have asked for 35% “pay restoration” as a “starting position” but have said they will meet with Mr Barclay “anywhere, anytime, to negotiate what this might look like.”

Mr Barclay has said the Government’s pay deal – already in place – is final.

He said doctors who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8% and consultants a 6% pay rise alongside “generous reforms to their pensions”.

– What effect is all this having?

NHS data suggests that nearly one million appointments and treatments, including some cancer care, have been postponed because of industrial action since December.

Some hospitals have reported up to half their normal levels of activity have been postponed during the strikes, which includes industrial action by nurses, radiographers and ambulance workers.

Last week, the Shelford Group, which represents 10 of the biggest hospital trusts in the country, said the scale of the disruption now being seen has “inevitably heightened the risk of harm” to patients.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said on Tuesday it was difficult to say whether strikes led to patient deaths but urged both sides to get round the negotiating table to reduce the risks.