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Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt spoke to Matthew Taylor, chief executive of NHS Confederation which represents NHS organisations, on BBC Breakfast. The hosts had been talking about the impact strike action is having on the service, with Naga apologising for her "awkward" line of questioning.
NHS leaders have warned of a risk to the significant progress made on tackling the backlog if industrial action continues.
The health service is preparing for what is likely to be the most disruptive strikes so far, with industrial action expected almost every day next week.
NHS bosses are now warning of growing fatigue given the impact of the strikes.
Naga asked the chief executive of the NHS Confederation: "I understand the NHS are warning the backlogs will be almost impossible to clear in an acceptable amount of time.
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"And there will be a detrimental impact on emergency care, but it really seems like no middle ground is being met at all between the two opposing sides?"
Matthew responded: "I think our concern is because we are managing individual days of strike action, there's a sense this could go on as business as usual.
"We spoke to our members in depth last week and what they identified was the recovery taking place at the health service will be jeopardised.
"So things are better than they were a few weeks ago, on the one hand, we are seeing much fewer ambulance delays.BBC Breakfast: Naga Munchetty apologised for the awkward question (Image: BBC)
And on the other hand, we are making real progress on waiting lists.
"But that recovery is put in jeopardy if we continue to have strike action, we have got strike action almost every day next week.
"There are other issues as well. Part of the reason we are able to get through the strike action so far is the public seems to hold back from using services but as NHS England said yesterday, we don't really want the public holding back.
"We have to say again please use the NHS but that's a concern as well."
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He also raised concerns over the NHS managers not being able to innovate when they have staff absences to deal with.
He added: "Below the surface, this is becoming more and more challenging."
Naga asked for Matthew's messages to both the Government and the unions over the strike action, before probing him on "who should blink first".
Matthew said: "I'm not here to choose one side or the other..."
It was then that Naga stepped in to apologise for the "awkward question", adding: "But it literally comes down to that, doesn't it?"
Matthew said: "It falls to the government to try and get these negotiations started again."
This warning from NHS bosses comes as the latest data shows the elective care waiting list did not grow for the first time since May 2020.
November 2022 saw record numbers of planned procedures, with 70,000 more than November 2019.
Also, fewer hours were lost to ambulance handover delays outside of hospital in the last week, despite there being an increase in patients.
BBC Breakfast airs on BBC One from 6am.
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