Despite lurid headlines, sensible contingency planning by hospitals and GP practices looks like significantly reducing the impact of Thursday’s strike by doctors.
The British Medical Association, mindful of public opinion, is bending over backwards to be seen to ensure no one is endangered by the action.
The greater threat is to relationships between NHS staff. The striking doctors have a large number of supporters among NHS staff but there are also those, within the profession and outside, who feel they are betraying patients and/or making a tactical mistake in negotiations with government.
Both support and concern are running as an undercurrent throughout the NHS. However, if the strike is perceived as having harmed patients or especially if the action continues these emotions will become more overt. The legacy of industrial action is often long-running grudges that increasingly become more harmful than the original dispute.
There will be a tendency to relax after Thursday’s disruption has ceased. However, NHS leaders at all levels should be on guard for tensions the strike might have created. They will be able to do little about its root cause, but in rallying all behind the shared mission to deliver quality care they will help draw some of the dispute’s poison from the NHS’s bloodstream.