Latest doctors’ strike impacting ‘very busy’ NHS services across East London

Significant impact expected as junior doctors in the NHS walkout for a third time this year, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

A junior doctors picket line today outside The Royal London (credit John McLoughlin)

East London’s emergency health services are expected to be “extremely busy” during the junior doctors’ strike this week.

The strike, which began today (14th) and runs until 7am on Saturday, is having a “significant impact” on services at BHRUT, which runs Queen’s Hospital, Romford and King George Hospital, Goodmayes.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs five East London hospitals, has said its emergency departments are “very busy” due to the strike, hot weather and high pollen count.

Junior doctors make up around half of all doctors in the NHS and have up to eight years of experience in a hospital or three years in general practice.

Louise Whitton, a doctor at The Royal London Hospital and a British Medical Association representative, said the government’s recent 5% pay offer showed “a real lack of respect”.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We don’t want to go on strike, we want this to end, but we feel like we have no other choice.

“We’re losing staff to countries that pay more or to other sectors, being a doctor is hard at the best of times, but when you’re also going home and having to balance the books in a skilled way it’s even harder.

“Doctors leaving is really impacting on patient care – waiting lists are atrocious already.”

Louise added that there is a “marked difference” between the quality of care offered between University College London, where she has also worked in the past, and hospitals in East London.

She said: “The infrastructure is better at UCL – but the staff are incredible in both places.

“There’s a similar level of care and effort put in, but the computer systems in East London and access to imaging are all noticeably worse.

“I think our patient population do need better care, people present later [at hospitals] and have poorer access to care for a number of reasons.

“Everything that the NHS is struggling with I think East London’s NHS is struggling with especially.”

Health services in East London are prioritising emergency and maternity care by assigning consultants – more senior doctors – to cover junior doctors’ duties.

Both Barts Health and BHRUT have advised patients to attend pre-booked appointments unless they are contacted by their hospital.

BHRUT said it has rearranged 1,579 outpatient appointments and 42 non-urgent surgeries.

Barts Health said it is not expecting to cancel as many appointments as it did in the previous strikes but has not published cancellation figures.

Chief medical officer at NHS North East London, Dr Paul Gilluley, said disruption is “inevitable” during strikes so the NHS has prepared “extensively”.

But, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “With a significant proportion of our workforce not working as well as in the hot weather, we’re expecting our emergency services to be extremely busy.”

People should not put off seeking care and continue to dial 999 in an emergency or use 111 online for non-life-threatening care.

This week’s strike is the third round of industrial action to hit East London this year, following a  72-hour walkout in March.

Barts Health runs St Bartholomew’s, The Royal London, Mile End, Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals.

For updates on how the strikes are affecting Barts Health or BHRUT, visit the following links:

WFE membership Feb 2023

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