11 Aug 2023
The NHS is facing another period of significant disruption this week, with potentially thousands more appointments and procedures postponed due to the latest round of industrial action by junior doctors.
Local people and holidaymakers in Devon are being given advice on accessing health services as the next wave of national strikes begins on Friday.
From 7am on Friday 11 August until 7am on Tuesday 15 August, junior doctors across England will be on strike, as the NHS enters the ninth month of industrial action across its services.
This is the fifth strike from junior doctors, meaning services have seen over 450 hours without a third of the medical workforce over the last five months - the equivalent of 19 full days.
The NHS will continue to prioritise emergency care during industrial action – the public should continue to use 999 in life threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.
NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “This latest round of junior doctors strikes will again significantly disrupt services for patients and the additional challenge this time is that organisations are unable to use agency workers to cover staff out on strike. It is also a period of time where NHS staff often take annual leave, so there are already gaps in the workforce.
“We will continue to prioritise emergency care, but it inevitably means that many thousands of appointments will need to be postponed.
“Please continue to use 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency and 111 online for anything non-urgent. GPs and pharmacies are also open and largely unaffected by strikes. If you have an appointment and haven’t been told it’s been postponed, it’s also vital you turn up as normal.
“While NHS staff are doing all they can to manage, there is no doubt that the cumulative impact of strikes increases with each action, as the NHS continues to tackle the biggest backlog in its history.”
Dr Nigel Acheson, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Devon, said:
“Over the next five days, 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.”
“The culmination of months of strikes, combined with the summer holiday season and increased visitors to the south west, means it could be a really difficult on the frontline.
“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 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, we are urging anyone with non-urgent care need to first seek help from NHS 111 online.
Please check hospital 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:
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, phone and video consultations as well as arranging for prescriptions to be sent to any pharmacy you choose.
Last updated: August 11, 2023