LOCAL people and holidaymakers in Devon are being given advice on accessing health services as the next wave of national strikes begins today, Thursday, July 13.
The NHS is facing the longest-ever strike action by junior doctors – five consecutive days.
This is followed by the first walk-out by consultants in more than a decade, starting on July 20, and radiographers striking from July 25 to 27.
The NHS is now entering the eighth month of industrial action across the NHS and staff continue to work hard to provide patients with the best possible care under the circumstances.
Industrial action has impacted approximately 600,000 hospital appointments across the NHS during this time.
The most recent industrial action by junior doctors in June saw 106,000 hospital appointments in England disrupted over three days.
The next planned junior doctors action is over five days so is likely to see more appointments disrupted, and will be closely followed by consultant strikes.
Dr Nigel Acheson, Chief Medical Officer, NHS Devon, said: “Over the next two weeks, people should still seek the care they need as they usually would – calling 999 in life threatening emergencies but using NHS 111 online for other health concerns.
“These next rounds of strikes during July look set to become the most challenging periods of industrial action so far for the NHS in Devon. The culmination of months of strikes, combined with the summer holiday season starting in the south west, means it could be a really difficult on the frontline.”
The NHS says there is likely to be significant impact upon local services. This will mean services will feel different for patients - this could include longer waits, deferred treatment, and in a small number of cases the consolidation of services (where there are two services in an area, only one may be open).
The NHS is prioritising resources to protect emergency treatment, critical care, neonatal care, maternity, and trauma, and ensure we prioritise patients who have waited the longest for elective care and cancer surgery. We will only reschedule appointments and procedures where necessary and will rebook immediately, where possible.
Dr Acheson added: “Regardless of any strike action taking place, it is really 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 message from the NHS in Devon is that urgent and emergency care will be there for you, but please choose the right service for your needs.”
Advice for patients:
The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. If we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned.
Urgent or emergency care
People should go to 111 online for medical help and advice but call 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.
During strike days, it is likely 999 call handlers will be very busy and NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff – therefore longer call response times are expected across the system. As a result, the advice is for anyone with a non-urgent care need to first seek help from NHS 111 online.
Please check Trust websites for information on Minor Injury Units and Urgent Care Centres.
If you, or someone you know, experiences a mental health crisis you can access support from a number of places:
• 24/7 urgent mental health helpline 0808 196 8708
• Mental Health Matters helpline (24/7) 0800 470 0317
• Mental Health Crisis Line Plymouth is open 24/7 0800 923 9323
• Samaritans 1116 123
• Text SHOUT to 85258 for 24/7 text support
GP and dental appointments
GP practices will continue to be open as normal during the strikes. Please continue to attend your GP and dental appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.
Keep yourself safe and well
The NHS is also asking the public to play their part by taking simple steps during industrial action to look after themselves, loved ones and checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours. Make sure you have ordered and collected any repeat medicines, especially if you are travelling.
Visitors to Devon are also reminded that their first port of call for GP care is their home practice, which will be able to provide online, telephone and video consultations as well as arranging for prescriptions to be sent to any pharmacy you choose.
The NHS appreciates the public’s understanding and co-operation during this challenging period.