Hospitals in England have had to postpone at least 137,000 appointments due to industrial action by exhausted nurses, ambulance staff and physiotherapists.
Patients are being “hit hard” by the strikes after the government failed to negotiate wage demands.
Data released by the health service shows 137,081 appointments have been rescheduled in less than two months, with more than 49,000 being rescheduled on Monday and Tuesday.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “We cannot afford to see industrial action becoming the new normal”.
“There are no winners in this situation: patients are being hit hard, trusts are unable to provide the care they want, and staff feel they have no choice but to join the picket line,” he said.
“While shop stewards are incredibly adept at handling challenging situations, these ongoing strikes threaten to do major long-term damage to the NHS, including hampering efforts and hard-won progress in tackling supply backlogs.
“We are also concerned that fewer ambulance trips on strike days could mean fewer patients getting much-needed care when they need it.”
Why are NHS nurses on strike?
The RCN has said NHS nurses have suffered a 20% pay cut in real terms since 2010.
The union is campaigning for a pay rise of 5% above inflation to help nurses overcome real pay cuts, support nurses through the cost of living crisis and recognize their critical skills.
There are also record job vacancies in nursing: 25,000 nursing staff resigned last year.
Data released by the NHS shows that in December more than 54,500 patients in England faced emergency department waits of more than 12 hours before being admitted – the highest since August 2010, when the data began.
Mr Cordery warned that the high number of postponed appointments will only increase if no solution is found.
He urged the government to “urgently talk to unions about pay for this fiscal year.”
The latest data from the NHS comes as government-approved waiting lists may not go down for at least two more years and may even double.
Around six million people are currently awaiting treatment, including hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and tests.
The biggest strike in NHS history erupted on Monday as tens of thousands of staff from around 71 trusts across England went on walkouts.
These included members of the Royal College of Nursing, as well as paramedics from GMB and Unite, call attendants and other staff from Ambulance Trusts.
Union leaders have also urged ministers to act to prevent more strikes, but have indicated they will not budge on one of the main issues – pay for 2022/23.
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/02/09/nhs-strikes-at-least-137000-hospital-appointments-cancelled-18251384/ NHS strikes: At least 137,000 hospital appointments cancelled