How will the consultants' strikes affect my cancer treatment?

The British Medical Association (BMA) have announced that there are strikes planned for consultants on 19-20 September and 2-5 October 2023.  

Not every hospital will be affected by strikes and strikes will only be taking place in England currently.    

You can find out more about what this could means for you and your treatment here. 

What is the BMA?  

The BMA is a trade union for UK doctors. They represent doctors both individually and as a group and work to negotiate their pay and rights and supporting them at work. 

What is a consultant?  

As stated by the BMA, consultants are senior doctors that have completed full medical training in a specialised area of medicine, for example oncology. They usually work in hospitals or community settings. 

After graduating from medical school, it takes around six to eight years to become a consultant. 

Every young person with cancer will have a consultant as a part of their team. Consultants help you to make treatment decisions and will ensure you are given the best possible care available. 

What is a strike? 

A strike, sometimes also called ‘industrial action’, is when people refuse to work for their employer.   

This happens because the group are in a disagreement with their employers, and they haven’t been able to solve the issue with negotiations (conversations).  

Why are consultants striking? 

The aim of the consultant strikes is “to fix consultant pay now and for retirement”. They are striking to campaign for better pay for consultants now but also to make sure this better level of pay continues in the future. 

How long will consultants be striking for?  

Many consultants in England were involved in strikes in July and August 2023. It has since been announced that there will be further strike days on 19-20 September and 2-5 October 2023. 

We will update this with any new information when it’s released.  

How might this impact my care?  

Young people with cancer are at the heart of everything we do at Teenage Cancer Trust, and we understand that you might be worried about what the consultant’s strike means for you and your treatment.  

It’s important to remember that whether you’re being treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit or not, the safety of patients is always the most important thing. During any strikes life-preserving services will carry on.    

For the consultant’s strikes they have said they will still be delivering ‘Christmas Day’ levels of care. This means that emergency care continues but elective or non-emergency work would need to be cancelled.   

The BMA have confirmed that they have contacted hospital trusts that are affected by strikes to let them know so they can make plans to make sure good patient care will continue on the days affected. 

If you want to understand more about how the strike might affect your treatment you should speak to your care team who will be able to advise what’s happening at your local hospital. We have included some advice on how to do this below.   

We will update this page with any new information.    

If I have an appointment on one of the strike days will it be cancelled?  

If you have an appointment on one of the days consultants are striking then you should speak to your care team to find out if your appointment will be affected by the strike action.  

What do I do if I have a health emergency on one of the strike days?   

Emergency care carries on throughout strikes. This means normal access to emergency or urgent care will still continue with no changes. You can check with your care team if you’re worried about what this might mean for you. 

Where else can I go for support?     

We understand that you might feel overwhelmed by all the information you’re having to take in during cancer diagnosis and treatment. You should always be able to speak to your care team about any concerns or questions you might have.    

We have lots of information about diagnosis, types of cancer and types of treatment in our information section. We also have information on mental health. Cancer doesn’t just affect your body – it can affect your mind, thoughts and emotions and if you’re finding this time overwhelming we have some information to support you.   

There are lots of other places that you can turn to for support if you’re worried too, we’ve got lots of organisations listed on our useful contacts page