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Surrey’s NHS prepares for biggest strike action in NHS’ history

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, with significant disruption to services expected due to further planned industrial action by junior doctors who are part of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA).

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 Tuesday 11 April until 6.59am on Saturday (15 April).

As junior doctors work across many different services and organisation, and this planned industrial action is taking place over a longer period of time (4 days), there will be disruption to some services across the county, with some outpatients appointments and planned operations rescheduled so frontline teams can prioritise critical services and caring for those who are seriously ill.

We expect some junior doctors working in Surrey to take part and we fully support 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 13th-16th March) 175,000 hospital appointments were rescheduled due to 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 Surrey GP explains:

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’ experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to three years experience in general practice.

Junior doctors make a significant contribution to NHS services and in ensuring patient safety so whilst 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 the 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 we are encouraging residents to help the local NHS, during what we expect to be a particularly challenging time, by following this advice:

  • 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, or their life is at risk.
  • 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 – but when it’s not a medical emergency - (or calling 111 if people do not have access to the internet).
  • People should only use 999 and A&E for serious or life-threatening conditions or medical emergencies (when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk).
  • If people aren’t contacted, we are asking them to attend their appointment as planned. The NHS will contact people directly if appointments need to be rescheduled due to strike action.

Dr Canniff added,

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


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