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Simon Stevens says junior doctor strike is 'deeply regrettable' as turnout tops 78%

Exclusive NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has called today’s junior doctor strike ‘deeply regrettable’, as eight in 10 doctors walk out.

Speaking to Pulse in an exclusive interview today, the man in charge of running the NHS refused to be drawn on whether he thought the strike had been avoidable, but said today was ’a sad day’ both for the NHS and doctors.

In the first all-out doctors’ strike in NHS history, junior doctors walked out of routine and emergency care at 8am Tuesday morning, with further action due to take place during Wednesday.

Mr Stevens told Pulse: ‘I think most of us regard it as a very sad day both for the NHS and the medical profession when we are seeing tens of thousands of operations postponed, a hundred thousand outpatient appointments delayed.

‘This is having real consequences for patients and it is deeply regrettable.’

His comments come as statistics unveiled by NHS England showed that the turnout for Tuesday’s action was 78%, although this figure also includes sickness and other forms of absence. This compares with 88% during the last strike day in March.

NHS England said the latest data, ‘as at 0900hrs, indicates that 78% (21,608) of junior doctors who were expected to be working have not reported for duty today – this includes other forms of absence not just industrial action such as sickness’.

Ahead of the strike, NHS England told the public that there would be ‘extra primary care and GP response/appointment availability’ during the two strike days.

When asked what the extra resources were, NHS England said this was up to each region.

The only region to return Pulse’s request for information, NHS England in London, said: ’On Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be 4,100 extra appointments available in extended primary care, for example through primary care hubs across London.

’This is on top of appointments provided in routine GP opening hours. These appointments can be booked via the practices in the local area, or through calling 111.’

The spokesperson clarified that these were additional appointments just for the strike period but declined to say how much this was costing.

Junior doctors are protesting against the imposition of a new proposed contract that would increase plain time working on Saturdays to make the Government’s seven-day NHS manifesto pledge financially viable.

Mr Stevens had previously said it was ‘right’ to say a junior doctor contract should be implemented now, speaking to ITV in February.

An embattled walkout

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is coming under pressure from opposition politicians to withdraw the contract imposition, but is staunchly defending his stance.

The strike action during Tuesday and Wednesday is backed by a BMA ballot, in which 98% of junior doctors supported strike action, including a potential all-out strike.

Talks between the Government and BMA broke down over the issue of evening and weekend pay, with the Government refusing to step back from its decision to remove ‘unsociable hours’ pay premiums from Saturdays and weekday evenings.

The BMA is also taking the Government to judicial review, arguing that ministers failed to carry out an equality impact assessment before the imposition.

A BBC poll of the public showed 57% are still in support of junior doctors striking this week, but this was down from 65% in March.

Readers' comments (33)

  • Deep as grand canyon sh***

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  • It's deeply regrettable Jeremy Hunt hasn't gone yet

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  • Its deeply regrettable hhtat when Simon when to government asking for 16 b to stand still he agreed to have 8. If you cannot deliver the service with the dosh you resign eh Simon? Where are your principles?

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  • If your not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. You, Jeremy and Darzi have a lot to answer for, the public but especially to people whom you call (or should I say called) your colleagues.

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  • I'm still relishing his 2p per patient uplift. The rest of the money's gone to the New York banks, has it?

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  • Shame on the 22% of juniors that went to work today.

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  • "Anonymous | Medical student26 Apr 2016 5:25pm

    Shame on the 22% of juniors that went to work today."

    They may not be BMA members in which case they couldn't lawfully strike I believe

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  • medicine tastes awful

    Dear Mr Simon Stevens it is 'deeply regrettable' that you have not resigned when 78% of these doctors have no trust and confidence in you and Mr Hunt. Where is your conscience?

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  • it's not only Hunt and Simon Stevens to be blamed. a lot of others have their hands in this. the grassroots staff have been treated unfairly and this is karma. things are going to get a lot worse if our 'leaders' don't get their act together - we could be seeing the end of the NHS right now.

    whatever happens i'm 100% behind the juniors and imagine most consultants and GPs are too.

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  • Simon Stevens and Prof Keyhole must be proud of themselves as being in charge in the first ever full walk out in the NHS. It's almost as they feel they have nothing to do with this !

    It's Simon Stevens who promised the earth and to save money with a 5 year view without a clue how to implement it and it's Keough who is pushing 7 day working without compelling evidence.

    I hope they enjoy their pensions and future knighthoods and can explain to their grand children how they helped destroy the NHS.

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