Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership – which brings together NHS organisations and wider partners across Surrey - is preparing for the biggest strike action in the history of the NHS.
Significant disruption to services is expected due to further planned industrial action by junior doctors who are part of the British Medical Association and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association.
As local health and care organisations work together to minimise the impact on services and patient care, the local NHS is sharing information and advice about the impact expected, and how to access urgent care if needed during the period of industrial action, which runs from 6.59am on April 11 until 6.59am on April 15.
As junior doctors work across many different services and organisations, and this planned industrial action is taking place over a longer period of time – four days – there will be disruption to some services across the county, with some outpatients appointments and planned operations rescheduled so front line teams can prioritise critical services and caring for those who are seriously ill.
The partnership expects some junior doctors working in Surrey to take part and is fully supporting them whether they choose to participate or not.
Nationally, previous action by junior doctors saw approximately 28,000 staff off due to industrial action, and over the three-day period – from March 13 to 16 – 175,000 hospital appointments were rescheduled because of the strikes.
As this period of planned action follows the Easter bank holiday weekend and will last longer, the impact is expected to be much greater.
Dr Charlotte Canniff – joint chief medical officer for Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership, and a Surrey GP – said: “The periods before, and immediately after, bank holiday weekends are always busy times for the NHS and, with these four days of planned industrial action coming straight after a four-day bank holiday weekend, we expect to see a greater impact - and a greater level of disruption.”
Junior doctors make up around half of all doctors in the NHS. They are qualified doctors who have anywhere up to eight years of experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their speciality, or up to three years of experience in general practice.
Dr Canniff added: “Junior doctors make a significant contribution to NHS services and in ensuring patient safety, so while we are working with our hospitals and wider partners to minimise the impact, it’s recognised that this industrial action is set to be the biggest strike in NHS history, so we will see some disruption to local services.
“As a health and care system, we will prioritise our resources to protect emergency treatment, critical care, neonatal care, trauma services and urgent cancer care, so we can treat those patients who are critically ill and urgently need our help.”
During this period of planned industrial action the partnership is encouraging residents to help the local NHS, during what it expects to be a particularly challenging time, by following this advice:
1) Regardless of any strike action taking place, it’s important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward as normal, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases when someone is seriously ill or injured.
2) The NHS is asking patients to use services wisely during industrial action, which includes using 111 online as the first port of call for urgent health advice when the situation is not a medical emergency, or calling 111 if they do not have access to the internet.
3) People should only use 999 and A&E for serious or life-threatening conditions or medical emergencies when someone is seriously ill or injured.
If people are not contacted the partnership is asking them to attend their appointment as planned. The NHS will contact people directly if appointments need to be rescheduled because of strike action.
Dr Canniff said: “Industrial action places more pressure on local services, so we would ask people to be patient and kind to staff if services are busier and waits in A&E and walk-in centres are longer than usual – and if people need urgent medical help they should continue to come forward by using NHS 111 or calling 999 if it’s a medical emergency.”