Strikes result in delays to more than 7,000 cancer operations | UK | News

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Strikes result in delays to more than 7,000 cancer operations | UK | News

More than 7,000 cancer surgeries were reportedly delayed because of junior doctors’ strikes.

It comes as health bosses are said to be pleading with union chiefs to ensure patients are not impacted by industrial action.

According to The Telegraph, the number of cancer operations has fallen by 27% during the walkouts, even among the most deadly and time-sensitive cases.

The NHS will be hit by a tenth round of strikes by junior doctors starting on Saturday. They will walkout for five days after talks with the Health Secretary broke down.

Health officials are however said to be pleading with the British Medical Association (BMA) to agree exemptions to protect cancer patients from further industrial action. The Telegraph says union officials have refused to agree to the exclusion.

The NHS bosses are said to have been at loggerheads with unions over the possible dangers being posed to patients by the strikes.

And figures show that during the strikes there has been a 27% reduction in cancer surgery. Which is equivalent to around 7,000 operations.

Reports indication the reduction appears to be replicated even for time-sensitive issues including lung cancer as well as gastrointestinal, head and neck. Delays for such patients increase the risk of tumour growth and spread.

Analysis found that even after periods of industrial action, cancer patients typically faced more delays. There was a delay of around one to two weeks for surgery.

Reports suggest a four-week delay in starting cancer treatment increases the risk by around 10%, with the highest risk patients those with bowel cancer as well as head and neck diseases.

A memo from Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national cancer director, and Prof Peter Johnson, clinical director for cancer, sent to medical directors of England’s cancer networks on Monday reportedly states: “NHSE analysis suggests that, despite the efforts by colleagues across the country to maintain services wherever possible, there has been a 27% reduction in cancer surgery during periods of industrial action by junior doctors [equivalent to more than 7,000 fewer cancer operations since March 2023] and that this scale of reduction has been replicated even for time-sensitive cancers”.

The Telegraph reports NHS cancer centres will now be asked to provide health bosses with details of how many cancer procedures are planned for strike days and how it compares to a normal day.

Health chiefs hope this will put further pressure on the BMA. Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We urge all parties to work together to quickly reach an agreement and ensure that people affected by cancer don’t miss out on life-saving services. If this can’t be reached, hospitals must ensure that risk to cancer patients’ disease progression is the overriding concern when protecting critical services.”

Junior doctors are demanding a 35% pay rise, which they say will restore their pay levels in real terms. They say they would accept it over a number of years.

Prof Philip Banfield, BMA council chairman said: “We take any concerns around patient safety incredibly seriously.

“Throughout industrial action we’ve maintained discussions with NHS England, stressing that Trusts should be planning services on and around strike days carefully and prioritising people with the most urgent needs – including patients needing urgent cancer surgery.

“We have been more than willing to work with NHS England on this, yet we know some hospitals are still scheduling non-urgent operations on and around strike days, which affects the ability to reschedule urgent surgery.

“Discussions around these recent specific concerns raised by NHS England are ongoing. »

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