As Surrey braces itself for the longest period of strike action in the NHS’ history, health leaders join forces to urge people to use services responsibly
Surrey’s hospital, community and mental health trusts have joined forces with NHS Surrey Heartlands and the wider health and care partnership to warn of unprecedented disruption to NHS services this week.
This comes as the local NHS faces the longest period of planned industrial action in the health service’s history by junior doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association who are striking for six consecutive days from 7am on 3rd to 7am on 9th January 2024.
With this period of action taking place at the start of the New Year - notoriously one of the NHS’ busiest periods - as it faces record demand for services, increased A&E attendances and admissions, a rise in cases of flu, Covid-19 and norovirus, all compounded by reduced staffing levels due to the industrial action – Surrey’s NHS are united in their plea as they urge Surrey residents to use services responsibly.
As the health and care system recovers from the last period of action, which took place before Christmas (20th to 23rd December) health leaders from Surrey’s NHS are warning of widespread disruption to routine services, encouraging people to still come forward if they need urgent medical help during the strike period.
Dr Charlotte Canniff, Joint Chief Medical Officer for Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership and Surrey GP explains:
We have well-rehearsed plans in place to manage these periods of disruption, working together across health and care organisations. However, due to the timing, and with this being the longest period of planned industrial action the NHS has ever seen – taking place over six consecutive days - we expect this to be the most difficult period of action yet.
During the last period of strike action, just before Christmas, at its peak, on 21st December we saw 497 junior doctors from Surrey Heartlands taking part in planned action. With junior doctors making up around half of all doctors, a reduction of this scale has a significant impact on the services our frontline teams can continue to provide – so we do expect significant disruption to routine appointments and planned procedures as we prioritise urgent, emergency, trauma, maternity and critical care for those who need us most.
If people need to access health advice and treatment during this period of planned industrial action we are encouraging them to still come forward – and to use services responsibly and appropriately:
- People should continue to use pharmacies, GP practices, walk-in centres and NHS 111 online or by phone 24/7 for urgent health advice
- 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’s appointments or procedures have been affected by industrial action the local NHS will contact people directly to reschedule them as soon as possible. If people haven’t been contacted, they should attend appointments as usual.
Matt Jarratt, Chief Operating Officer at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust said:
Our junior doctors have our full support, whether they choose to participate in industrial action or not. But we know this strike action will put more pressure on frontline services and our staff, who are already working incredibly hard.
We are again asking members of the public for their support in using services responsibly and appropriately, thereby helping us keep our Emergency Departments and 999 for those who need them most. We are also asking people to be patient, particularly if services are busier and waits are longer than usual or if outpatient or planned procedures need to be rearranged, as our frontline teams prioritise critical services and work hard to make sure people get the care they need.
With A&Es already very busy this time of year, the local NHS is reminding people to use the full range of services available – which includes pharmacies for general advice, GP practices for urgent issues, walk-in centres, urgent treatment centres and minor injury units for more minor conditions but where it isn’t life threatening (suspected sprains and broken bones, bites, minor cuts and burns) and NHS 111 online and by phone if people aren’t sure where to go.
As the local NHS moves into another challenging week, Surrey Heartlands are asking people to help the local NHS by using the right service so it can keep A&E and 999 services for people with life-threatening conditions.