Strikes having devastating impact on patients and staff

Last updated: Wednesday, 12 July 2023

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Photo of the exterior of St Thomas' Hospital

Clinical leaders at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are once again calling on the Government and unions to do everything in their power to bring an end to the ongoing periods of industrial action.

On the eve of a 5-day strike by junior doctors followed almost immediately by a 2-day strike by consultants, the Trust is worried about the devastating impact of further delays in care and longer waits for patients, including for those people waiting for cardiac surgery and cancer treatment.

In addition to the strike action by members of the British Medical Association, members of the multi-profession union Unite will also be holding a 1-day strike during this same period, causing even further disruption to services.

Dr Simon Steddon, Chief Medical Officer at Guy's and St Thomas', said:

On behalf of our patients and staff we are again asking the Government and unions to get back round the negotiating table and bring an end to these incredibly damaging strikes.

“The cumulative impact of this prolonged period of strike action by different professional bodies is now huge. To date, at our Trust alone, we have already had to cancel or reschedule around 55,000 outpatient appointments and nearly 6,000 planned procedures.

“Thousands more will need to be cancelled over the next couple of weeks adding to the significant delay, inconvenience and the inherent risk of further delay to diagnosis and treatment.

“With this picture being replicated across the country, these strikes are having a devastating impact on patients.

“Many people whose appointments or procedures are being cancelled will have experienced this on multiple occasions, which is incredibly distressing for our patients, and their friends and families.

“Strikes also have a huge physical and emotional impact on our staff. The weeks before strikes are absorbed by reorganising services, negotiating staffing cover, making cancellations and rebooking patients. The response is exhausting. And the weeks after are spent catching up on pent-up demand, while trying to allow appropriate rest and recovery for staff.

“We absolutely respect the right of any colleague to take industrial action, and we know that many are doing this as a last resort. But these ongoing strikes simply cannot continue and we would urge all parties to find a way to end them as soon as possible.”

The Trust is also appealing for people to use urgent and emergency services appropriately during the strike period to help clinical teams prioritise those patients who need care most urgently.

Dr Steddon said: “We will of course still be there to treat patients who need urgent and emergency care, but our Emergency Department (A&E) is likely to be very busy. If you do need non-urgent medical advice, please try and use a different service such as NHS 111, your GP or a pharmacist to get the care you need.”

The Trust comprises 5 of the leading hospitals in the UK – Guy's Hospital, St Thomas' Hospital, Royal Brompton Hospital, Harefield Hospital and Evelina London Children's Hospital. It also provides community services in Lambeth and Southwark.

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