It is undeniable that the UK Junior Doctors strike in January 2024 had an impact on patient appointments. In this blog post, we will take a close look at the impact of the UK Junior Doctors strike on patient appointments and explore what it means for the NHS.
The strike action saw 113,779 inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled, and 25,446 staff were absent from work due to strikes at its peak on 3rd January. The cumulative total of acute inpatient and outpatient appointments rescheduled since the strikes began is 1,333,221 (Source: NHS England).
Cancelled Appointments & Rescheduling
One of the most noticeable ways the UK Junior Doctors strike affected patient appointments was through the cancellation and rescheduling of appointments for planned care due to the reduced number of doctors at work during the strike period. Hospitals and clinics were forced to prioritise emergency cases, which left many patients with non-urgent issues having to be rescheduled. This, in turn, adds to the already-existing issue of long waiting times for appointments.
“The longest strike in NHS history has led to unprecedented disruption for patients and their families” says NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis.
“That cost is clear in these figures – likely to be even higher in reality – with more than 113,000 appointments postponed at a time when services are already under huge pressure from rising flu and covid cases.”
Delays in Treatment
With the reduced number of doctors at work, the wait time of treatment increased for many patients. The impact of this will have ranged from minor inconvenience to major frustration. This not only affected the patients themselves but also put additional pressure on doctors and other healthcare professionals who were working during the strike.
Impacting Both Emergency and Planned Care, and Recovery Services
It is not just the patients with planned care appointments that are impacted by the strike. There is often a higher than usual attendance at A&E, which needs to be managed, along with an additional struggle of finding beds for those A&E patients that need them.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis points out that “as well as having an impact on planned care, industrial action is putting pressure on wider services, and prioritising emergency care takes staff away from other areas such as recovering services.”
The long-term effects are still unclear. The strike raised questions about the staffing levels and funding of the NHS, both of which are critical to the long-term success of the healthcare system. It also led to discussions around the importance of fair working conditions for healthcare professionals and how that relates to patient care.
Whilst the reasons for the junior doctor strike are understandable, the serious impact this had on patient appointments, and therefore waiting times, is clear. And the job of NHS Trusts to reduce waiting lists is made even harder.
If your Trust has been affected by the strikes and you are looking for a cost-efficient way to reduce waiting lists, contact us to find out how we can help you.
Or find out more about reducing the backlog with Waiting List Data Validation Programs.