Junior doctor strikes at a Surrey NHS trust is feared to become ‘monthly’ with ‘a lot less willingness’ from people to cover gaps in maintaining levels of service.

The Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust board meeting took place on Thursday, May 25, and almost immediately the issue of striking doctors came to the fore with staff retention and breaches of patient confidentiality also featuring prominently. 

Front and centre though was the dispute over pay and conditions between the Government and junior doctors.

Royal Surrey CEO Louise Stead said, with three days of industrial action already announced for June, the trust “would be going into overdrive to plan for that” but said it would be more difficult as there would be “a lot less willingness” from people to cover any gaps – a problem that would only increase “as this goes on”.

She told the meeting it was increasingly likely that there would be “strikes every month until there is a resolution”, adding “this will be very difficult”.

Trust chairperson Joss Bigmore said the “whole situation was becoming increasingly frustrating on the hard working people”.

He told the meeting: “Until they find a resolution to this its just going to get worse and worse."

He said: “It was galling to see the health secretary canvassing during the election when the junior doctors were on strike”, before adding “We have managed incredibly well so far but it won’t last. We really need to find a resolution to this.”

Junior doctors in England are planning a new  72-hour walkout in June as talks with the government once again broke down. The walkout will start at 7am on Wednesday, June 14, and run until Saturday, June 17 with the British Medical Union labelling the government’s five per cent pay offer as not “credible”.

Among the other items discussed during the morning meeting were the increase in the number of healthcare infections being detected across the hospital, in line with the rest of the UK since coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jacqui Tingle, the director of nursing and midwifery, said that while there had been a nationwide pattern for infectious diseases to rise as a whole, Royal Surrey had specific recorded a “spike” in c-difficile cases. 

The meeting also heard about the on-going issues with recruitment, which had played a role in the three month increase in complaints received from patients.

On IT,  she spoke to the “significant rise” in patient data breaches  – 248 from 90 reported last year, which she said was due to the implementation of a new electronic patient record system though these are said to be in decline,

What has been happening, she said, was the new system pulled patient data from a central hub rather than the most up-to-date local lists resulting, in some cases, in confidential medical letters being sent to the wrong address.

By Chris Caulfield

Local Democracy Reporter