Doctors’ strike may over-crowd hospitals
Hospitals may end be over crowded tonight as they fail to discharge patients because of the junior doctor strike.
The NHS seemed to cope well on Wednesday following the walkout from 08:00 GMT over the contract dispute. But NHS England said the second day of the 48 hour walkout in England was always going to be more difficult.
Officials said hospitals may struggle to discharge patients without junior medics on wards.
Dr Anne Rainsberry, who is in charge of planning during the strike, suggested hospitals might find it difficult to discharge patients, which could then create a backlog in hospital wards.
She said this was because they had a “valuable role” in chasing up test results and ensuring patients were ready for discharge.
“So far the NHS is holding up, but we always expected the second half of the strike will be more challenging,” she said.
She also urged patients to go to hospital only when absolutely necessary.
“If people need medical help and it’s not an emergency they should consider NHS Choices, visit their local pharmacy, or call their GP or NHS 111 for more serious matters. If their condition is an emergency or life-threatening they should call 999 as usual or go to A&E.”
Doctors are providing emergency cover during the walkout, which ends on Friday morning, and consultants, nurses and midwives are all working in hospital as normal. GP surgeries are largely unaffected.
On Wednesday just over half of junior doctors expected in work did not turn up – a figure broadly in line with the previous strikes and to be expected considering the numbers needed to provide emergency care.
The latest walkout is the third in the long running dispute, but the first to last 48 hours.
So far 19,000 operations and treatments have had to be postponed because of industrial action. The NHS carries out about 30,000 procedures a day.
Thousands of check-ups, appointments and tests have been affected as well.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said she had “growing concern” about the dispute.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the arguments put forward by either side, the failure to resolve the differences by agreement is bad for doctors, bad for the taxpayer, but above all bad for patients and the NHS.”
This week’s walkout is the first of three 48 hour stoppages planned by the British Medical Association as it continues its fight against the government’s plans to force through the changes to pay and conditions. The next two are planned for April.
The union has also said it will be launching a legal challenge to oppose the imposition of the contract that was announced following last month’s strike.
But ministers have said they will be pushing ahead with imposition regardless. The new contracts are due to go out in May and will come into force from August.
The BMA said it “deeply regretted” the disruption that was being caused, but the action was necessary because of the “unfair” changes being imposed on the profession.