Government not collecting data on deaths during junior doctors' strikes

The Government has no plans to report figures of any deaths of patients occurring during last week's walkouts by junior doctors, PRWeek can reveal.

Nothing to add: DH will not report strike deaths (Credit: Horia Varlan via Flickr)
Nothing to add: DH will not report strike deaths (Credit: Horia Varlan via Flickr)

Discussing two strikes called by the British Medical Association, PR professionals warned last week against using any patient deaths as a political football.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, had warned of the "unacceptable" risk of deaths due to the strikes, which followed four earlier bouts of industrial action this year over changes to the junior doctors' contract, but were the first in which emergency cover was not provided.

Hunt has been criticised by Julie Lovell, whose daughter Karen died just hours after the strike ended last week.

In a posting on Facebook at the weekend, Lovell wrote: "Jeremy Hunt. How dare you! My darling daughter passed away at the end of the strike by the young doctors whom I fully support. She did not die due to this strike. I will NOT accept her name included in any statistics saying it was."

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has not been tasked by the Government with collating statistics of deaths during the strike, an ONS spokesman told PRWeek. "The ONS publishes weekly death figures so that would not point to a specific day. The figures are also compiled based on when the deaths were registered which may not be on the same day that the deaths actually occurred," they added.

There are no plans for new reporting methods specific to the industrial action, according to sources in the Department of Health. In terms of the broader impact of the strike on patients, a spokesperson for NHS England commented: "There were no serious incidents that we are aware of at this time."

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