NHS England warns against block cancellations during ‘unprecedented’ strikes

Published on: 31 Mar 2023

NHS England has told trust, system and regional leaders to avoid “block rescheduling” of elective cases during the four-day junior doctors’ strike next month.

In a letter sent by national medical director Sir Steve Powis and NHSE’s chief operating officer Sir David Sloman, NHS leaders are asked instead to use “rolling day-to-day cancellations” and reschedule cases “based on clinical risk”.

The letter also urges leaders to maintain “as much day case and outpatient capacity as possible” and to use digital or virtual consultations to support outpatient delivery. However, it acknowledges that because of the “unprecedented scale and timing of these strikes we accept that rescheduling activity is going to be essential to minimise risks to patients”.

The strikes will last from 7am on 11 April until 7am on 15 April and will involve a stoppage of all work including nights, on-call shifts and non-residential work.

The NHSE leaders stressed the “additional challenges” presented by the looming strike action and add they are “being communicated to both government and the BMA on a regular basis”.

“The priority for the NHS is to mitigate risk to patient safety and we wish to be clear that we trust system leaders to make decisions to ensure we maintain a safe urgent and emergency care pathway – and that critical care, maternity, neonatal care, and trauma sites are resilient,” it says.

It adds that a communications pack has been shared with trust communications teams with key public messages, including use NHS 111 unless a life-threatening emergency and to attend planned appointments unless contacted.

And the letter says: “We will also be engaging with national media and stakeholders in advance of the action, and would also encourage local engagement with local media and stakeholders to support this work.”