Hospitals face ‘significant pressure’ over festive period as further industrial action planned

Unions have announced that junior doctors in England will once again be taking industrial action over a 72-hour period from 7am on Wednesday 20 December until 7am on Saturday 23, followed by six days of further strike action from 7am on Wednesday 3 January to 7am on Tuesday 9.

Service disruption is expected on all of the strike days, with cancellations of some planned appointments likely – though emergency care will still be provided.

Dr David Levy, medical director at NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, which organises health services for the region, has urged people to make www.111.nhs.uk their first port of call for non-emergency health needs.

He said: “The winter months and particularly the festive period are typically busy times for hospitals and other parts of the NHS. With the three-day strike ahead of Christmas and a six-day strike – the longest walkout in NHS history – in the new year, our hospitals will undoubtedly be facing significant pressure and disruption.

“We always urge people to use services wisely, and particularly so during industrial action. This includes using NHS 111 online as the first port of call for any urgent health needs and continuing to only use 999 or attend A&E if it is a life-threatening emergency.”

The NHS has also been reminding people to order any repeat prescriptions in advance. This not only helps avoid a last-minute rush for GP practices and pharmacies, but also helps ease the burden on the NHS 111 service and hospitals.

Dr Levy continued: “One of the most common issues that the NHS 111 service has to deal with over Christmas is helping people who have run out of medication and need an emergency supply arranging. By ordering your repeat prescriptions in advance and ensuring that you have enough medication, you can avoid an unnecessary call to 111 and help bring down waiting times for people who require the service.

“Please also check in with any elderly or vulnerable family members and neighbours to check they have everything they need to cover the Christmas period.”

The NHS has been impacted by industrial action since the end of 2022 and the newly-announced dates will see strikes continue into 2024.

Dr Levy has thanked the public for its patience and support during this difficult period and is reminding patients to attend any appointments unless instructed otherwise.

He said: “We are extremely grateful for the way the public have supported the NHS throughout this lengthy period of industrial action and for continuing to use NHS services appropriately during these times of pressure.

“While industrial action is taking place, please attend any appointments as planned unless you are contacted by us in advance to reschedule.”

The NHS 111 service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call, go online or use the NHS App to find out:

  • Where to get help for your symptoms
  • How to find general health information and advice
  • Where to get an emergency supply of your prescribed medicine
  • How to get a repeat prescription
  • How to get an emergency dental appointment

If needed, NHS 111 can also arrange a call back from a nurse, doctor or paramedic or an appointment at the most appropriate local service including local pharmacies, urgent treatment centres, GP practices or A&E.

More information about when to call 999 and when to go to A&E is available via the national NHS website.

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