All I want for Christmas is… a fully-functioning NHS? Strike-ravaged hospitals will operate at full capacity for just FOUR days between Christmas and January 10 – as union threatens even more walk-outs in event pay deal gets rejected

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • From tomorrow junior doctors will stage nine days of walk-outs over Christmas 
  • Number 10 and BMA have agreed an offer to resolve dispute with SAS doctors 

NHS hospitals will only operate at full capacity for four days over the coming three weeks, it emerged today.

Strike misery will rock facilities during the festive period, which is typically the busiest time of year for the health service. 

Combined with weekends, it means just four days (December 27, 28, 29 and January 2) are unaffected by the impending chaos of the holidays and walk-outs until January 10.

Health chiefs warned the action threatens to heap misery on thousands of patients and cause ‘huge disruption’.

It comes as union bosses today also threatened more strike action in the event the Government’s consultant pay offer is rejected. 

Junior doctors in England have voted to stage fresh strikes in December and January after talks between the Government and British Medical Association broke down

British Medical Association (BMA) consultants are currently voting on a deal that could see them get up to an extra £20,000.

The union announced its mandate for action was extended by another six months.

It means that, should its members reject No 10’s deal — which is in addition to a pay rise already handed out — they can strike until June 18, 2024. 

Separately, specialist and speciality (SAS) doctors are also voting on a similar deal. 

The Department of Health said it hopes it will address ‘imbalances’ in pay scales for staff on different contracts.

The offer proposes changes to pay scales for SAS doctors on 2021 contracts, with an additional rise of between 6.10 per cent and 9.22 per cent.

If accepted, the rises will take effect from January 2024 and will have no impact on any separate future awards decided by the pay review process for 2024/25.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, today said: ‘These strikes come at a time that will cause huge disruption to the NHS, with services are already feeling the strain of winter pressure.

‘When you factor in the Christmas and New Year break, these strikes will prolong that period of reduced activity and it also puts the health service on the back foot into the new year, which is a time where we see demand start to rise significantly.

‘Over the holiday period, I would encourage anyone who needs medical help to continue to come forward – in a life-threatening emergency, call 999 and use A&E in the usual way. For everything else, use 111 online.’

Thousands of junior doctors will abandon posts for three days before Christmas, starting on December 20. Another six days of action — the longest in the health service’s 75-year history — are pencilled in from January 2. 

Staff will work on a ‘Christmas day’ basis for both spells of industrial action, meaning that emergency care will continue to be given. 

Ministers and representatives from the BMA had been locked in negotiations for five weeks, trying to find a resolution to the long-running pay dispute.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis (pictured in June), NHS national medical director, today said: 'These strikes come at a time that will cause huge disruption to the NHS, with services are already feeling the strain of winter pressure. 'When you factor in the Christmas and New Year break, these strikes will prolong that period of reduced activity and it also puts the health service on the back foot into the new year, which is a time where we see demand start to rise significantly'

Professor Sir Stephen Powis (pictured in June), NHS national medical director, today said: ‘These strikes come at a time that will cause huge disruption to the NHS, with services are already feeling the strain of winter pressure. ‘When you factor in the Christmas and New Year break, these strikes will prolong that period of reduced activity and it also puts the health service on the back foot into the new year, which is a time where we see demand start to rise significantly’ 

Thousands of junior doctors will abandon posts for three days before Christmas, starting on December 20. Another six days of action ¿ the longest in the health service's 75-year history ¿ are pencilled in from January 2. Staff will work on a 'Christmas day' basis for both spells of industrial action, meaning that emergency care will continue to be given. Pictured, BMA members outside the Conservative Party Conference in October

Thousands of junior doctors will abandon posts for three days before Christmas, starting on December 20. Another six days of action — the longest in the health service’s 75-year history — are pencilled in from January 2. Staff will work on a ‘Christmas day’ basis for both spells of industrial action, meaning that emergency care will continue to be given. Pictured, BMA members outside the Conservative Party Conference in October 

But the union said its junior doctors committee voted unanimously for further strikes after accusing the Department for Health and Social Care of failing to put forward a ‘credible’ offer.

They said the Government’s three per cent rise on top of the average 8.8 per cent increase they received in the summer was ‘completely insufficient’. 

Last winter, which also saw NHS staff take to the picket lines, was one of the worst on record for the health service in England.

The NHS has now dealt with a full calendar year of strikes, with the first taking place on December 15, 2022. Since then, more than 1.1million inpatient and outpatient appointments have been rescheduled.

Latest NHS figures show 7.7million patients are currently needing routine treatment, one of the highest figures logged since NHS records began in August 2007 and a rise of 490,000 on October 2022.

For comparison, around 4.4million were stuck in the system when the pandemic reached the UK. 

Separate figures released last week also show flu and the winter vomiting bug norovirus are piling further pressure on hospitals, with the number of patients taking up NHS beds jumping by up to two-third in just one week.  

At the time, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who made cutting waiting lists one of his 2023 priorities, warned that upcoming strike action would make it ‘hard’ to keep clearing the backlog. 

He urged the medics to ‘do the right thing’ and call off the industrial action.

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