The true number of appointments cancelled by strikes may be twice as high as the official toll, NHS chiefs have revealed, as the figure passed one million.
NHS Confederation said that while a million appointments had been officially cancelled due to walkouts, “the true impact is much higher, perhaps as much as double what the figures show”.
Rory Deighton, director of the acute network at the NHS Confederation, said hospitals “now routinely pre-empt the strikes” and do often not book in operations and appointments.
“The data today however will not show the true cost in terms of money and even cancellations, with strikes estimated to cost more than £1bn already and rising,” he said. “We know that the true scale of the cancelled appointments could be much higher, with the official figures only recording cancellations on the day.”
It comes after more than 129,000 patient appointments were cancelled as a result of junior doctor and consultant strikes last week, which included a day where both walked out for the first time.
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, called it a “grim milestone” that was a result of “coordinated and calculated industrial action by the BMA”.
During the joint action, on Wednesday 20th September, there were 26,802 staff absent from work due to strikes.
Junior doctors and consultants are set to walk out again next week, this time for three days, during the Conservative party conference.
“Regrettably, the BMA is threatening to escalate strike action again next month, which would mean the number of cancellations rising further and adding to the pressures on health services as we head into winter,” Mr Barclay said.
Junior doctors have received an 8.8 per cent pay rise on average, with consultants receiving six per cent, but both are asking for more.
NHS medical director for secondary care Dr Vin Diwakar said the “figures reveal just part of the relentless impact of strikes over the last ten months”.
“We know that each appointment rescheduled is incredibly difficult for patients and families, and as we prepare for further joint action next week, there is precious little time for staff and services to recover,” he added.