Use 999 or A&E for emergencies only! This is the plea from NHS health leaders as the region prepares for joint strike action by junior doctors and consultants.
The industrial action will last four days. There will be a 48-hour walk-out by British Medical Association (BMA) member consultants from 7am on Tuesday 19 September until 7am on Thursday 21 September. There will also be a 72-hour walk-out by BMA member junior doctors from 7am on Wednesday 20 September until 7am on Saturday 23 September.
NHS teams across the region have been working ahead of the strike to understand the potential impact this may have and to put in place plans to reschedule appointments for patients, and prioritise urgent and emergency care services.
Dr Alex Kent, medical director, North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board said: “The public can expect long delays and more disruption to NHS services during this latest period of industrial action. Planning for four days of strike action with a joint day of action by consultants and junior doctors has made it challenging for teams, whilst we also understand the impact this has on patients, families, and staff.”
Health leaders are urging the public to only call 999 for an ambulance or attend A&E for life-threatening conditions or injuries only and that patients should expect disruption and potential long waits during the strike, and in the immediate days following the action when patient attendance often peaks.
Dr Kent added: “We are prioritising emergency and urgent care services, and we really need the public’s help to only call 999 and attend emergency departments if it is a genuine life-threatening injury or illness.
“Some hospital treatments and appointments will need to be rescheduled. However patients will be contacted directly to inform them of any changes and should assume their scheduled appointment or treatment will go ahead unless they have heard otherwise, there is no need to contact the NHS.
“GP practices and local pharmacies will also be open as usual during the industrial action to help with advice and treatments.”
Public are reminded for urgent health needs, which are not life-threatening, NHS 111 online is available 24 hours a day. A symptom checker can be used to assess symptoms and it will re-direct to a health professional if people need to be seen by someone, you can also call NHS111. Self-care advice is also available on-line from the NHS.
Parents, carers and young people can also use the Healthier Together app or website which provides NHS healthcare advice and top tips on a range of child-related illnesses along with information on local services.
Anyone needing urgent mental health support should continue to seek it via their local Crisis Team. People can also search by postcode here to find their local crisis line.