Commenting ahead of next week’s industrial action, NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “This next round of strikes will see unparalleled levels of disruption, and we are very concerned about the potential severity of impact on patients and services across the country.
“This time the action immediately follows a four-day bank holiday weekend, which is already difficult as many staff are taking much-needed holiday, and it will be more extensive than ever before – with hospitals facing nearly a hundred hours without up to half of the NHS medical workforce.
“This week, we will continue to prioritise emergency, critical and neonatal care, as well as maternity and trauma services, but it inevitably means that hundreds of thousands of appointments will need to be postponed again, including in cancer care, and there is likely to be a significant impact on a range of local services.
“As far as possible, we will prioritise those who have waited the longest for elective care and cancer surgery, and we will only cancel appointments and procedures where it is necessary, rescheduling as soon there is space and staff to do so.
“It is the nature of strikes to be disruptive, and so, while the NHS is doing all it can to minimise the impact, there is no doubt that cumulative action – that has seen over 285,000 appointments and procedures postponed to date – now makes it more difficult to both keep key services going and to ensure timely rescheduling.
“As ever, 111 online should be the first port of call for non-urgent health needs next week and please continue to use 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency only. If you have an appointment and haven’t been told it’s been postponed, it’s also vital you turn up as normal.”