Though there have been rumblings of discontent amongst NHS staff for many years now, the cost-of-living crisis, which has seen inflation reach a peak of double digits,² seems to have been the final straw leading up to the strikes.
To date, there hasn’t yet been a resolution, meaning that the strikes will continue intermittently.
Although under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 it’s illegal for a strike to endanger human life,³ ambulance staff, including paramedics, have also been striking in England and Wales.⁴ This means that not only will the delivery of primary care be affected, but also the delivery of emergency services.
Already, the chaos caused by the strikes can be seen. As a result of strikes that have taken place over the past six months, more than half a million appointments and procedures have been rescheduled.⁵ According to NHS England, ‘at the peak of the [strike] action, there were 27,361 staff not at work’ but this figure is likely to have been much greater due to issues with data collection.⁶
Even when the strikes stop, however, that doesn’t mean that the huge impact they’ve had on service users’ access to primary care will. Instead, nurses, doctors and patients will have to contend with the various repercussions of the strikes for maybe years to come.
If you were already struggling with access to primary medical care, then it likely isn’t going to get easier over the next few months should there be no strike resolution.
It’s therefore important that you utilise alternative pathways to care where possible, for instance via your existing employee benefits. For those who do not have an alternative pathway to care, a cash plan can be a cost-effective alternative. Most cash plans include a digital GP component that allow you to book a remote appointment with a doctor about all the same issues you would speak to a doctor about in a traditional doctor's surgery.
What’s particularly useful about cash plans is the preventative component; users can get full or partial reimbursement on a number of health maintenance costs like seeing a dentist, seeing the optician, getting physiotherapy and osteopathy, and more. This may help to alleviate the need to be referred to see a specialist in a hospital and potentially come into contact with cancelled appointments or significant wait times.
If you or your employees do not have access to a cash plan but would be interested in learning more about them, speak to your usual Towergate advisor who can put you in touch with our colleagues at Towergate Health & Protection.