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England’s top doctor urges patients to access emergency care despite biggest strikes in NHS history next week
The NHS is asking patients to seek urgent care if they need it during industrial action next week and continue to attend appointments as planned unless contacted to rearrange.
England’s top doctor has warned next week’s action could be the most disruptive yet as the NHS faces the biggest round of industrial action in its history.
Patients should use services wisely by going to NHS 111 online as the first port of call for non-urgent health needs and continuing to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency.
General practice, community pharmacies, and dentistry are not impacted by strike action and the public should continue to access these services as needed on strike days.
The NHS will contact anyone whose appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. If the NHS has not contacted you, it is important to attend appointments as planned.
Next week will see the following action:
Nursing strikes across 73 trusts in England on Monday and Tuesday.
Ambulance workers striking on both Monday and Friday across different parts of the country.
Physiotherapist strikes on Thursday.
Monday 6 February will be the first time both nurses and ambulance workers are striking on the same date.
NHS Medical Director Sir Stephen Powis said: “Next week is likely to be the most disruptive week of strikes to date and while local services have worked hard to minimise impact for patients, the scale of action mean increased disruption is inevitable.
“However, it is vital that people do not put off seeking care and come forward for treatment – using 111 online for non-life threatening care, as well as local pharmacies or general practice, or dialling 999 in a life-threatening emergency.
“Areas impacted have worked hard to maintain as much routine care as possible so it is also important that anyone with an appointment should continue to attend as planned unless they have been contacted to rearrange.”
The NHS has been preparing extensively for industrial action and for winter, with plans already in place to manage additional demand including 24/7 control centres, additional bed capacity, more mental health support for ambulance services and more community falls services.
In December, the NHS launched the latest phase of a TV campaign encouraging the public to use NHS 111 online.
After entering answers about health needs online, the service makes an assessment and directs you to the best place for your care – this can include a consultation with a pharmacist, a call back from a nurse, or visiting a same day urgent treatment centre or A&E.
NHS England and local NHS areas have plans in place to ensure life-saving care continues and to minimise disruption to patient care.
In November NHS England issued guidance to local NHS employers on what derogations they should seek from local union representatives to ensure certain vital services such as chemotherapy continue.