Doctor strikes cause major disruption for hospitals and patients. Past attempts to estimate impacts on patients suffer from selection issues due to changing patient composition during strikes. We address these issues by exploiting differential hospital exposure to a 2016 ‘junior’ doctor strike in England to estimate the impact of doctor strikes on patient outcomes. Using the pre-strike junior-senior doctor ratio to measure exposure, we show increased strike exposure led to larger reductions in elective volumes, but did not affect volumes, average mortality or readmission rates for emergency patients. However, greater exposure to the strike did lead to higher readmission rates for black emergency patients. This suggests that while hospitals managed to mitigate many of the negative effects of the strikes, disruptions from the strikes still had negative consequences for some minority groups.