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NHS England says that everything possible is being done to ensure the provision of safe emergency care and to minimise the impact on patients.
But it expresses regret that thousands of planned procedures would have to be rearranged and that people would have to wait longer for treatment as a result.
Anne Rainsberry, the NHS England director overseeing preparations, said: “We have tried and tested plans to deal with a range of disruptions including industrial action. As ever, the safety and care of patients is our top priority and the NHS has robust plans in place to ensure those who need emergency treatment will continue to receive it.
“We have been working with hospitals and other NHS providers across the country to ensure we can continue to protect the safety of our patients and provide the urgent services they need. We will monitor the situation across the country to ensure these plans are in place, and are ready to respond to any significant increases in pressure in any region over the course of this dispute.”
NHS England issues the following advice to patients:
- Urgent and emergency care services will be available as normal but hospitals are expected to be under additional pressure. Where possible, people should contact their GP, seek advice from their local pharmacist, call NHS111 or consult the NHS Choices website. Where it is an emergency, people should call 999 or go directly to A&E.
- GP services will be available as normal and we would encourage anyone who thinks they will need an appointment to organise this before industrial action begins
- Any patients who have procedures or appointments affected by industrial action will be contacted by the providers if they need to be rearranged. Those with concerns about their procedure or appointment should contact their NHS provider for information.
- People should be particularly attentive to their health over this period and look out for more vulnerable members of their families and communities. They should make maximum use of NHS Choices or NHS111 and local pharmacy services