Health bosses at NHS foundation trusts across the region are warning patients and the public to expect further disruption to NHS hospital services next week.
Trust leaders in the region are concerned about the impact of the four day period of industrial action from the British Medical Association (BMA) which will see hundreds of junior doctors unavailable to work from 7am on Tuesday 11 April to 7am on Saturday 15 April.
This is the longest single period of industrial action affecting the NHS to date. It will affect every single hospital across the North East and North Cumbria on a scale like never before. The industrial action follows a four day Bank Holiday weekend during the Easter school holidays when more colleagues are likely to be on leave and unable to step in to support their organisations as they did last time.
Whilst some disruption is always expected with any industrial action, NHS leaders are concerned that the scale of this 96 hour walk out makes it increasingly difficult to mitigate and manage.
In a statement issued through the region’s Provider Collaborative, NHS foundation trusts in the North East and North Cumbria said: “As hospital providers we are very concerned. The prospect of not having junior doctors available for 96 hours at such a critical time after Easter will have an inevitable and noticeable impact on the quality of care we can provide.
“Junior doctors are a vital and much valued part of the NHS workforce and to have such a big part of our teams missing is a deep worry for us all. The pressure on services is already at peak with no let-up in demand. It is incumbent on us to be very clear with the public about the scale of the impact and knock on consequences for patients and for our staff.
"We will need people to support us by taking the right action if they need help from the NHS during this unprecedented time and to be mindful of the disruption to services.”
Whilst extensive planning is underway to minimise risk, NHS foundation trusts in the region say that patients will likely face longer waits when arriving in urgent and emergency care settings and if they need to be admitted into a hospital bed. They are also concerned about knock on delays to already challenged discharge processes.
They also warn that there will be more disruption to planned care and appointments at a time when the region’s NHS is working hard to reduce waiting lists and recover after the pandemic.
Key messages for patients
The region’s Provider Collaborative is keen to reinforce key messages for patients and the public:
- If you are seriously ill or injured, or your life is at risk, you should continue to come forward and seek emergency care in the usual way. Call 999 or attend the Emergency Department.
- If you need urgent medical help or advice (that won’t wait for a GP appointment), or if you are unsure about whether you should go to hospital, go to NHS 111 online (www.111.nhs.uk) first. If you do not have internet access then dial 111 for free from any phone. Please do not turn up to hospital without using 111 first.
- If you need urgent mental health support, you can get 24/7 access to your local crisis team via Mental Health Helpline for Urgent Help – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
- If you have a planned appointment between 11 and 15 April, please attend your appointment as planned, unless we have contacted you. The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.
The statement from the region’s Provider Collaborative continued: “We are working hard to ensure patients and the public can still access the care they need, when they need it. The only way we can safely do this is to reschedule planned activity so that we can keep essential emergency services going. We are very sorry to those patients who will be impacted and all trusts will, of course, be in touch directly with you if your care is impacted.
“We want to thank all staff, including our junior doctor colleagues, who continue to make a phenomenal effort day-in and day-out to manage the ongoing safe delivery of patient care at a time of unprecedented and relentless demand on the NHS.
"We do not underestimate the toll this pressure takes on everyone and we know how committed all staff are to doing their very best for the people we look after.”