Health bosses in Bedfordshire brace for longest junior doctor strike yet

Male doctor with stethoscopeMale doctor with stethoscope
Male doctor with stethoscope
They say strike will put NHS services under extreme pressure

Health bosses in Bedfordshire are getting ready for more strike action – which they say will cause widespread disruption to planned operations and emergency care.

Junior doctors are set to strike from 7am tomorrow, Wednesday, January 3 through to 7am on Tuesday, January 9 in what will be the longest period of action to date.

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It comes less than a fortnight after the last strike, which ended on December 23, and takes place during what is traditionally the busiest time of year for the NHS as patients seek post-Christmas care amid rising levels of winter viruses such as flu, norovirus and Covid.

The NHS has been affected by industrial action for more than a year. Nationally, industrial action has impacted more than 1.2 million acute inpatient and outpatient appointments across the NHS.

In the East of England, the three days of industrial action by junior doctors before Christmas resulted in over 9,000 inpatient and outpatient appointments being postponed, with almost 2,800 members of staff not working each day on average.

Appointments and operations will only be postponed where unavoidable, so patients are advised to still come forward unless they are contacted. Where appointments are postponed, patients will be offered an alternative date as soon as possible.

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Dr Edward Morris, regional medical director for the NHS in the East of England, said: “It’s been a busy Christmas for the NHS, taking care of those with winter illnesses and other health conditions as quickly as possible, all while managing the fallout from the last strike action just 12 days ago. This will be the longest action yet and puts us under extreme pressure, with many planned appointments, unfortunately, likely to be postponed. We will be prioritising urgent and emergency care to protect patient safety and ensure those in life-saving emergencies can receive the best possible care.

“To help us through this period, please use NHS services wisely in the usual way – by using NHS 111 online or calling 111 for everything other than life and limb threatening situations. Community services like pharmacies and GPs also continue to provide expert advice and support during this time.”

GP practices will continue to be open during the junior doctors’ strike. Please continue to attend your GP and dental appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.

If it goes ahead as planned, the latest strike will see the longest continuous stretch of industrial action in the history of the NHS.

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The doctors' union, the BMA, said patient safety remains a top priority. The BMA’s junior doctors committee first voted for industrial action in February 2023, having announced potential action back in October 2022. A successful reballot in the summer saw a renewed mandate for strike action through to February 2024.

The BMA has been campaigning over the past year for junior doctors to get a 35% pay rise, which it says would restore their earnings after inflation to 2008 levels, but the government says this is unaffordable.

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