A cancer patient has told Sky News it’s “terrifying” for her health that junior doctors are striking again from Thursday.

The NHS is expecting “major disruption” in the coming days as medics in England walk out over pay amid a yellow health alert heatwave and ongoing disruption to some services because of a ransomware cyber attack earlier this month.

Major hospitals Guys’ and St Thomas’ and King’s in London are still running at reduced capacity after the incident.

Donia Youssef and her children

Cancer survivor Donia Youssef has annual colonoscopies but her last was cancelled because of previous industrial action by junior doctors.

Donia, from Grays in Essex, said: “It’s a worry as a mum with two young children and I was on the list. It got cancelled. First time because of the strikes. And after that I didn’t hear from them. So I kept pushing. Nothing. It was just more delays. I was just kept waiting.

“[They said]: ‘There’s a backlog. We’ll get back to you. There’s a backlog, they’re getting through. We’ll let you know if there’s any cancellations.'”

“It’s like months later. Nothing. So eventually, because the symptoms are getting worse, I decided to pay.”

Donia was so scared of her health worsening she paid for private treatment, a cost she could barely afford. And now, as a cancer survivor, every time there’s a fresh round of strikes she is filled with dread.

“I get scared. I can’t get [treatment] on the private and a lot of it’s really expensive. So, yeah, it’s terrifying. So you’re constantly aware,” she said.

Donia Youssef
Donia Youssef

Donia added: “I try and not watch the news because it just scares me. But then when I do see it, I just get fearful, for myself and obviously others as well. It’s a scary time, and we shouldn’t be in this position. That’s what scares me.”

The British Medical Association (BMA), which has said that junior doctors’ pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008, has said some senior junior doctors would be given permission to work at the hospitals during the walkouts to “prevent dangerous delays to cancer care“.

The industrial action, which begins at 7am on Thursday and ends at 7am on 2 July, is the 11th walkout by junior doctors in the bitter dispute over pay.

Guy's Hospital is one of the hospitals impacted by the critical incident. File pic: AP
Guy’s Hospital. File pic: AP

Asked about the impact of the cyber attack and the weather, BMA chairman of council Professor Philip Banfield said more experienced doctors will cover for their colleagues.

Dr Banfield said: “When the junior doctors go on strike, it doesn’t empty the hospital out of doctors. You’ve got our specialty and specialist (SAS) colleagues, consultants, so it is a more senior workforce in place, those gaps are not quite what you would expect.”

NHS England said that it expects the strike to cause “widespread disruption to routine care and difficulties with discharging patients”, despite extensive preparations.

Junior doctors make up half of the medical workforce and their last walkout in February led to 91,048 appointments, procedures and operations being cancelled.

Donia Youssef
Donia Youssef was so scared of her health worsening she paid for private treatment

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said: “This new round of strike action will again hit the NHS very hard, with almost all routine care likely to be affected, and services put under significant pressure.

“The warmer weather can lead to additional pressure on services at a time when demand for services is already high.

“As ever, we are working to ensure urgent and emergency care is prioritised for patients, but there is no doubt that it becomes harder each time to bring routine services back on track following strikes, and the cumulative effect for patients, staff and the NHS as a whole is enormous.”

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Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “While we fully understand the genuine grievances junior doctors have over their pay, conditions and training, NHS leaders will still be frustrated that they will yet again be taking to the picket lines.

“Holding strikes in the middle of an election campaign when no political party is in a position to bring the dispute to a close is a bitter pill to swallow for staff who have to plug the gaps and patients who will have their appointments cancelled or delayed.”

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About 1.5 million appointments have been postponed since the current wave of industrial action began in the NHS in England in December 2022, which has included walkouts by junior doctors, consultants, paramedics, physiotherapists and other staff groups.

It is estimated that strikes have cost the NHS an estimated £3bn.