The NHS in the South West is facing significant disruption to routine care due to strikes, compounded by staff holidays and sickness and warm weather.
Consultants across the NHS have begun striking today (Thursday 24 August), bringing almost all routine care to a standstill.
The NHS is advising people to continue to use 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.
The latest wave of national action comes ahead of the August bank holiday, starting at 6.59am today running through until 6.59am on Saturday (26 August).
In contrast to strike action among other staff groups, no other clinicians can provide cover for consultants, so any planned care delivered by junior doctors or other healthcare professionals that requires even remote consultant supervision will need to be rescheduled.
This means a significant amount of planned care involving junior doctors will also be affected, and many services will have avoided scheduling planned appointments altogether.
The action by consultants follows the latest period of industrial action by junior doctors across five days last week, which nationally saw a further 61,200 hospital appointments postponed, with the cumulative total over more than eight months of strikes now running at 839,327.
Dr Kheelna Bavalia, NHS England South West Medical Director, said: “The NHS is faced with significant disruption to routine care, coming at a time when the South West has an influx of holidaymakers and day-trippers. In addition the strikes take place ahead of the bank holiday and we are even busier than usual with residents and visitors getting out and about.
“We are also seeing colleagues take annual leave, and staff sickness within some Trusts, so teams are already stretched.
“We are asking people to continue to use 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns. GP services and pharmacies are also available for patients and can be accessed in the normal way.
“Patients who haven’t been contacted or informed that their planned appointment has been postponed are also urged to attend as normal.”
NHS national medical director for secondary care Dr Vin Diwakar said: “This latest action will again hit the NHS hard, with almost all routine care being affected.
“We are working closely with unions to ensure we prioritise urgent and emergency care for patients, but there is no doubt that it becomes harder each time to bring routine services back on track following strikes, and the cumulative effect after nearly nine months for patients, staff and the NHS as a whole is enormous.”
Continue to use NHS 111 online for all other health concerns that are not life-threatening emergencies.
Visit NHS England — South West » Pharmacy opening hours to see the opening hours for South West pharmacies throughout the bank holiday.
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