Junior doctors staging a three-day walkout is a major blow for the NHS

Matthew Taylor comments on the news that British Medical Association (BMA) members will hold strikes next month.

20 February 2023

Responding to the news that BMA will hold strikes next month, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“Confirmation that junior doctors will stage a three-day walkout next month is a major blow for the NHS and the people who rely on its services.

“Junior doctors represent a critical part of the NHS’s workforce spanning a huge range of specialties and services, including emergency care, so there is no doubt that these strikes will be hugely disruptive and worrying for many people.

“While health leaders will look to secure cover from consultants and SAS doctors on these days, unfortunately we are likely to still see the cancellation of many non-urgent procedures, checks and other appointments so that the most life-critical care can be prioritised.

“When junior doctors last went on strike in 2016, hospitals had to cancel nearly 300,000 outpatient appointments, thousands of elective procedures had to be postponed, and many were also not scheduled on these days in anticipation.

“What is perhaps most worrying is that the 72-hour walk out is the BMA’s starting position and that it has said emergency care will not be excluded: if the Government continues not to budge, the next stage of industrial action does not bear thinking about.

"The Government may have hoped that the industrial action facing the NHS would peter out. However, as the sheer scale of the BMA’s ballot outcome shows, as well as the fact that many health leaders have told us that more of their staff have joined unions since the start of this dispute, clearly this is not a situation that will resolve itself.

“The Prime Minister has a choice to make, which is to either seek some resolution with the trade unions, or to jeopardise his commitment to cut NHS waiting lists.”