Appointments cancelled due to NHS strikes passes ‘grim’ one million milestone

The first-ever joint strike by consultants and junior doctors took place last week, with three further days of walkouts planned for early October (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
The first-ever joint strike by consultants and junior doctors took place last week, with three further days of walkouts planned for early October (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The number of appointments and procedures cancelled due to NHS strikes has passed the “grim” one million milestone, with warnings the figure is likely to increase, ahead of further planned walkouts next month.

The latest figures released by NHS England follow four days of industrial action, including the first co-ordinated walkout by medics in history.

Consultants walked out for 48 hours on September 19 and were joined by junior colleagues on September 20. The junior doctors strike then continued until 7am on September 23.

Some 129,913 inpatient and outpatient hospital appointments in England had to be rescheduled during the four-day period.

There were also 3,581 further cancellations in mental health, learning disability and community settings, though this is likely to include a small amount of double-counting, according to NHS England.

The number of inpatient and outpatient appointments cancelled in England since the current spell of industrial action began in the NHS in December 2022 now stands at 1.01 million.

If the community and mental health figures are included, the total rises to almost 1.1 million – though this will not reflect the overall number of actual cancellations, due to some duplication of data.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said junior doctors and consultants will stage another co-ordinated walkout on October 2, 3 and 4.

Commenting on the latest figures, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Today marks the grim milestone of over one million appointments cancelled as a result of strikes, with co-ordinated and calculated industrial action by the BMA creating further disruption and misery for patients and NHS colleagues.

“Regrettably, the BMA is threatening to escalate strike action again next month, which would mean the number of cancellations rising further and adding to the pressures on health services as we head into winter.”

Mr Barclay said medics have “received a fair and reasonable pay rise as recommended by the independent pay review bodies”.

He added: “Those who started their hospital training this year are receiving a 10.3% pay increase, with the average junior doctor getting 8.8% and consultants are receiving a 6% pay rise alongside generous reforms to their pensions, which was the BMA’s number one ask.

“My door is always open to discuss how we can work together with NHS staff to improve their working lives, but this pay award is final so I urge unions to end this damaging disruption.”

NHS national medical director for secondary care and transformation, Dr Vin Diwakar, said the milestone reveals “just part of the relentless impact of strikes over the last 10 months”.

He added: “We know that each appointment rescheduled is incredibly difficult for patients and families, and as we prepare for further joint action next week, there is precious little time for staff and services to recover.

“We will continue to prioritise emergency care and patient safety and as ever, people should continue to access the care they need – A&E and 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.”

On Monday, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said there will be “little, if any, downtime before planning starts for the next round of action”.

Elsewhere in the health service, radiographers across 37 NHS trusts will strike for one day on October 3, while specialist, associate specialist and speciality (SAS) doctors are being balloted on industrial action.