NHS chiefs warn pay dispute heightens tension at hospitals

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Hospitals will struggle to clear treatment backlogs and improve emergency care unless the NHS pay dispute is resolved soon, health chiefs have warned ahead of next week’s series of strikes.

The “wave of intensified industrial action” is causing thousands of surgeries and outpatient appointments to be rescheduled, putting additional pressure on an already overburdened system.

“It is getting harder and harder to deal with the constant disruption caused by more and more days of strike action,” the NHS Confederation, speaking on behalf of the heads of health services in England, said on Saturday.

“Significant progress made by the NHS in removing treatment backlogs and improving urgent and emergency care is in doubt unless the escalating waves of industrial action are brought to an end,” he said before the strikes. next week of nurses, ambulance crews and physiotherapists

NHS bosses have expressed deep concern about the potential impact of Monday’s unprecedented joint strike by nurses and ambulance staff, which will be the biggest strike in NHS history. At least one group of employees will also go on strike next Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

His warning today comes after it was reported that the health service has already had to cancel 88,000 appointments and procedures because of the seven strikes since December 15.

The confederation added: “With no end in sight and the possibility of strikes by young doctors and hospital consultants on the horizon, the growing concern of health leaders is not just about the damage and disruption of the day, but about the impact cumulative on the NHS. and local communities.

In a fresh plea to the government to resolve the dispute, they urged ministers to “show initiative” or risk patients in need of care being forced to wait longer for care and treatment. There are already 7.2 million people on the waiting list for hospital treatment in England, by far the highest number ever.

“We are facing a very upsetting week for patients,” said Matthew Taylor, the confederation’s chief executive. “The government cannot allow this to escalate further. We urge ministers to take the first step and find a solution to this impasse with the unions.”

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, angered the health unions by imposing a £1,400 per person wage premium for 2022/23, which they denounced as yet another pay cut in real terms, given runaway inflation. That equates to a 4-5% raise for most staff.

Barclay has been trying to find a way to increase that sum as the unions have made it clear that the stoppages will continue until they receive a bigger reward. However, his attempts to find a way to resolve the dispute failed as Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, refused to provide more money to help break the deadlock.

The unions have not met with Barclay since an apparently productive meeting on January 11. They have responded to the deadlock by announcing plans to increase the frequency of strikes and also the number of NHS trusts where they call members.

In England, nurses will go on strike on Monday and Tuesday, physiotherapists on Thursday and paramedics, call attendants and other ambulance staff on Friday.

The Royal College of Nursing is expanding the number of trusts it is holding a strike next week to 73, from 55 last month and 44 in its initial two strikes in December.

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