How Strike Action will mean Legal Bills for the NHS

How Strike Action will mean Legal Bills for the NHS

Recent months have been dominated by strike action by prominent public-sector organisations. These include teachers, rail workers, passport office staff, and much more.

Among the more contentious of these strikes have surrounded NHS workers. Junior doctors, nurses and ambulance workers have all taken strike action at some point this year. This has caused a deterioration in the NHS’s capacity and had an effect on patients. It remains to be seen what the long-term impact of this will be, but there’s reason to suppose that among the consequences will be a spike in legal action against the organisation.

NHS waiting list

Recently, we’ve seen hospitals in England fail to meet their targets for tackling backlogs in cancer care and routine treatment. The targets demanded that planned care, like hip replacements, were to be eliminated entirely, and that 62-day waits for cancer treatment were to fall to the levels they were at before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The waiting list has risen to just over seven million people, which is around three million more than it was pre-pandemic. Ministers have indicated that the numbers would begin to fall in 2024 – but for many, this will be too late.

The increased likelihood of medical negligence

Naturally, if there are delays in the provision of treatment for certain diseases like cancer, then the likelihood of a positive outcome is going to be harmed. This will mean more people suffering for longer, and more people dying in situations where they otherwise might not. This will inevitably lead to accusations of medical negligence, many of which will be pursued through the courts.

While every hospital has been guaranteed a certain level of coverage, the reality is that a reduction in staffing will necessarily produce a reduction in care. The people who are on strike do serve a function – if they did not, there would be no point in their striking.

Outlook beyond 2023

So, how is the situation likely to change in the year to come? It depends on whether industrial action continues to be taken, and to what extent.

The Royal College of Nursing voted to hold a forty-eight-hour strike at the beginning of May. The High Court intervened to say that such a strike would be unlawful, and the strike was cut in half, to just 24 hours.

The good news is that a deal has been reached with more than a million healthcare workers in England, who successfully secured a 5% pay rise. It’s difficult to say with certainty how the situation might change, but it seems likely that an agreement will be reached at some point – either with this government, or with the next.

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