The Health Secretary has warned on Wednesday that some patients “will stay in hospital longer” over Christmas as a result of the junior doctor strikes.
Victoria Atkins warned that patients could be left “stranded” in hospital over the festive period instead of being at home with loved ones.
Atkins said she wanted to address doctors’ concerns, but added, “I cannot do that if they’re on the picket line, rather than in hospitals looking after patients.”
She continued, “We also must look at what this means for other healthcare professionals and, of course, patients themselves.
“So, this Christmas, we know that these strikes if they continue today, tomorrow and on Friday, it will mean that people will stay in hospital longer than if the strikes had not happened because hospitals will not be able to discharge them.
“So, there will be people spending Christmas in hospital rather than at home. That is an enormous cost for individuals and for their families.
“But also for other members of the healthcare service because junior doctors, the (junior doctors’) committee, appear to expect consultants and others to pick up their work for them.
“And I’m very conscious it’s been a tough year for all our clinicians. I want them to be able to enjoy their Christmas and enjoy their rest as much as we all want to but they’re going to be picking up the slack for these doctors that are on strike.”
Age UK, NHS Confederation, Healthwatch England, National Voices and the Patients Association wrote to the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government warned patients could be left “stranded.”
They wrote, “There were 13,000 patients – many older people – waiting to be discharged in the first week of December.
“Strike action in the run-up to Christmas could see these numbers increase, leaving patients stranded in hospital over the holiday period despite being medically fit for discharge.”
Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairman of the BMA junior doctors committee, told the PA news agency that the Government needs to “recognise and value doctors and not inflict a real-terms pay cut.”
Last week, Atkins said a final offer had not been put before the BMA before more strikes were announced.
Asked about Atkins’ remarks, Dr Trivedi told the PA news agency, “We have still not seen this further offer so, if it really is enough to stop strikes, then let’s have it. If it is credible we can put it to our members and we can cancel these strikes today.”
He added, “We have never walked away from talks, we have called strike action and then the Government has walked away from talks, but we’re ready to speak at any point.
“There is no law, there is no rule that stops people talking when strikes are called and, in fact, we saw a completely different approach in Scotland where our colleagues had called for strike action but their Government met them at the table and they negotiated a deal which ultimately, not only was good enough to put to members but was good enough to be agreed by members, and they were able to avert strike action, full stop.
“I only wish that our Government would take some notice of that.”