The government is considering introducing minimum service levels to protect patient safety amid the ongoing NHS strikes, health secretary, Steve Barclay, has announced.
A consultation was launched last week on whether to implement minimum service levels for urgent, emergency and time-critical hospital services – this could cover doctors and nurses.
The move follows similar government action earlier this year on introducing minimum service levels in ambulance services, and was also in the midst of a week where both consultants and junior doctors took strike action.
British Medical Association-affiliated consultants and junior doctors are poised for another joint walkout on Monday 2 October until Thursday 5 October.
The 72-hour strike will be further supplemented by other striking junior doctors as well as consultants and hospital trainees from the British Dental Association. Radiographers will join from the Tuesday.
My top priority throughout ongoing strikes is patient safety.— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) September 19, 2023
That's why we're now seeking views on expanding minimum service levels to hospital-based health services to ensure that vital care can continue through days of strike action.
Explained 👇 pic.twitter.com/mtBlTsMuAW
The consultation will look to inform future decisions on the scope and possible expansion of minimum service levels.
This could, however, risk exacerbating relations between the government and unions, according to NHS Providers’ deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery.
This is because it “doesn’t address any of the issues underlying current strike action” such as pay and working condition-related grievances.
"With unprecedented joint action by consultants and junior doctors just days away, we need government and unions to sit down and talk urgently,” said Cordery.
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