NHS facing facing “significant disruption” during junior doctors’ strike

ROUTINE care NHS services in the south west are facing “significant disruption” this week as industrial action by junior doctors gets underway.

The doctors started strike action at 7am today (Wednesday), as the service enters one of the busiest periods of the year.

Junior doctors are set to return to work at 7am on Saturday (December 23).

Ahead of the walkout, NHS England said the strike is expected to “have significant impact as the NHS focuses on ensuring patients needing urgent and emergency care can be treated safely”.

Some routine appointments and operations will be postponed, they said, with hospitals contacting people directly should their appointment need to be delayed.

Dr Michael Marsh, NHS England South West medical director, said: “The NHS is always busy during the winter months and in particular over the Christmas and New Year period as staff take a well-earned break to be with family and friends.

“Add industrial action to that pressure means the NHS has to prioritise urgent and emergency care to ensure people are cared for safely. That does mean having to postpone routine appointment and operations so that staff are freed up to cover for junior doctors.

“We are asking people to help the NHS by continuing to use 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for all other health concerns. GP services and pharmacies are also available for patients and can be accessed in the normal way.

“Patients who haven’t been contacted or informed that their planned appointment has been postponed are urged to attend as normal.”

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Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, added: “These strikes come at a time that will cause huge disruption to the NHS, with services are already feeling the strain of winter pressure.

“When you factor in the Christmas and New Year break, these strikes will prolong that period of reduced activity and it also puts the health service on the back foot into the new year, which is a time where we see demand start to rise significantly.

“Over the holiday period, I would encourage anyone who needs medical help to continue to come forward – in a life-threatening emergency, call 999 and use A&E in the usual way. For everything else, use 111 online.”

Tips to help the NHS over the festive period:
• Use 999 in life-threatening emergencies. If you are unsure of the service you need use NHS 111 online or by phone.
• If your loved one is in hospital and well enough to leave, help support them to get home at the earliest opportunity.
• Make sure you have enough regular medication and don’t leave repeat prescription requests until you have run out. Your own GP can help arrange an urgent medication supply if you do run out.
• Make use of pharmacies. Pharmacists are open over weekends and can give you expert, confidential advice and over-the-counter remedies for minor illnesses and ailments. You don’t need to make an appointment to see a pharmacist.
• Call your own GP – even if you’re on holiday – when surgeries are open. They offer appointment via telephone and video, so you don’t need to be there I person.
• Parents can download the free NHS HandiApp for advice about common childhood conditions.

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