MORE strikes pose the biggest threat to the NHS this winter as hospitals fear another emergency department collapse, bosses warn.
Ministers and NHS chiefs met in Downing Street yesterday to prepare for the health service’s most difficult season.
They are bracing for more waves of Covid and flu cases while clearing record backlogs of surgeries and suffering from doctor strikes.
Consultants and junior doctors from the British Medical Association will strike together for the first time next Wednesday, September 20, with strikes expected to last into the New Year.
Miriam Deakin, of NHS Providers, an organization representing hospital bosses, said: “Leaders tell us that the most pressing challenge facing the NHS this winter is now the real prospect of continued industrial action.”
“These strikes are hampering efforts to reduce record-high waiting lists and undermining employee morale.”
“More needs to be done to resolve these protracted disputes.”
Last winter saw the worst emergency room and ambulance delays ever, with even heart attack and stroke patients waiting an hour or more for doctors to arrive.
Dr. Adrian Boyle, from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We are concerned about how we will be able to care for our patients this winter.”
“Last winter was extremely difficult and the worst we have ever seen.
“We still believe that our system is fragile and not resilient enough to avoid a similar situation.”
The Department of Health said hospitals will face “increased pressure from flu, Covid and seasonal illnesses – coupled with industrial action”.
The NHS will open more beds, treat more patients at home and put more ambulances on the road this year.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay last night pledged a further £200m to NHS hospitals and £40m to social care agencies to cut waiting times and get people home quicker.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Winter is the most difficult time for the health service, which is why we have been preparing for it all year round.”
“This additional £200 million will strengthen the health service at its busiest time while protecting elective care so we can further reduce waiting lists.”
Professor Philip Banfield from the BMA said: “How can Steve Barclay claim to be propping up the NHS for the winter while refusing to work with the doctors he needs to provide care?”
“If the Health Secretary really wants to support the NHS over the winter and beyond, his next step should be to restart talks with doctors and end the strikes.”