Consultants and doctors joint strike

NHS Strike action again, with nearly 8 million waiting in the queue

British Medical Association-organised strike

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

Waiting list

The latest data from NHS England, states the number of people waiting to start routine hospital treatment is at a record high of 7.68 million at the end of July 2023. This is up from 7.57 million in June 2023 and the highest since records began in August 2007. 

The waiting list has increased by more than 3 million since February 2020, the last full month before the start of the pandemic. The NHS is facing many different challenges due to the impact of Covid-19 on its services, staff and resources. This data suggests that the waiting list was already at 4 million even before the pandemic hit.

The latest strike action is a major factor now contributing to the NHS waiting list. Some reports suggest that over 850,000 routine operations and procedures have been cancelled so far this year, 2023 due to strike action alone.

Factors that may have contributed to the historical rise in the waiting list

  • The suspension or reduction of non-urgent care during the peak of the pandemic to free up capacity for Covid-19 patients.
  • The ongoing infection prevention and control measures that limit the number of patients that can be treated safely in hospitals.
NHS Strike action again, with nearly 8 million waiting in the queue
  • The staff shortages and burnout that affect the availability and productivity of the workforce.
  • The increased demand for health services as people seek help for conditions that were delayed or worsened by the pandemic.
  • Strike action.

The NHS is working hard to tackle the backlog and improve access to care for patients

  • Increasing funding and capacity for elcare, such as by opening more operating theatres, expanding community services and using the independent sector.
  • Implementing new models of care, such as virtual consultations, digital triage and shared decision making, to reduce unnecessary referrals and appointments.
  • Prioritising patients based on clinical urgency and need, rather than waiting time alone, to ensure that those who would benefit most from treatment are seen first.
  • Supporting staff wellbeing and retention, such as by offering flexible working, training and development opportunities and mental health support.

What about health education?

Government action

The government has also pledged to invest an extra £36 billion over the next three years to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and reform social care. However, some experts have warned that this may not be enough to address the underlying issues that affect the NHS performance and quality, such as workforce planning, public health funding and health inequalities.

How did it get so bad?

Lack of money or management failures? It has to one of these two. Throwing funds at an already badly managed ‘business’ will just amplify the problem allowing even more waste. And as the ‘system’ tackles the problem, more and more people will needlessly continue to suffer.

Fix our health service by fixing the people first!

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