Cancer sufferers face delay of weeks before receiving the test results in postal strike backlogs
The Patients’ Association also warned that many people would miss appointments with consultants because their appointment cards were likely to be caught up in the postal strike.
During the last national strike in 2007, 200 million items of post ended up in a mail mountain that took weeks to clear.
Michael Summers, vice chairman of the Patients’ Association, said the likely mail mountain caused by any strike would cause more anxiety and worry for anyone waiting for their GP to receive diagnostic tests for illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “It is worrying enough for patients, made much worse if they have to wait longer to receive the information. I hope the health service is alive to these problems.”
Mr Summers said that it would be better if the Department of Health allowed patients or GPs to receive the results of tests by email, or via a secure part of a website.
Asked about how hospitals would cope in the likely national postal strike, a spokesman for the Department of Health said that local health trusts would have their own contingency plans.
A spokesman said: “The local NHS should have contingency plans to cope with postal disruption.”
The Daily Telegraph understands that union leaders are considering proposals to hold a strike for 24 hours or 48 hours, followed by a series of rolling stoppages.
The rolling strikes, for 24 hours at a time, would hit mail centres, delivery offices and sorting offices on successive days, potentially paralysing the network for several days.
Sources described this strategy as the “nuclear option”.
The CWU is legally bound to hold some form of strike action within 28 days of the result of last Thursday’s ballot, at which CWU members voted by three to one to hold a national strike.
The union must give Royal Mail managers one week’s notice of any strike action, which means that the stoppage could be held as soon as next week.
Health Direct thinks that it is ironic that labour’s spin about new cancer targets is undermined by their own dithering and inability to make a decision.