Patients are often experiencing ‘two or more’ cancelled operations due to industrial action, health leaders have told the NHS Confederation.
Hospitals are routinely cancelling operations that have already been cancelled once, the Confederation has heard, with some patients having three cancellations.
The Confederation’s survey of its members comes ahead of this week’s historic joint consultant and junior doctor strikes.
Leaders have said that the latest round of action has seen a ‘higher number of appointments and operations’ cancelled than during previous strikes and with a ‘bigger impact on cancer patients’.
Health leaders have also told the Confederation that they do not understand ‘why the government doesn’t recognise the severity of the situation’ and that they believe Ministers see the strikes as ‘business as usual’.
One hospital trust leader told the Confederation: ‘The Elective Recovery Fund and operational planning guidance does not recognise the pressure of the industrial action, not only in coordinating safety (with poor tech/data making this time consuming and labour intensive work) whilst then going into the next week being challenged to ‘do more’, meet activity targets and justify long waiters.’
Chief executive of the NHS Confederation Matthew Taylor said: ‘Leaders are concerned that this dangerous situation is being underestimated by the government, telling us that this feels much different and more complex than previous strikes, with most reporting greater difficulties in rota planning and having to cancel huge numbers of elective operations and appointments in advance.’
He added: ‘Health leaders are understanding of staff frustrations around terms and conditions, but desperately want to get back to the business of delivering the best care possible for patients, improving services and reducing waits. At present they are stuck in a cycle of strike preparation and clear up, while the spectre of winter gets ever close.’