England’s top doctor is urging the public to continue to come forward for care if they need it during the bank holiday weekend.
Ahead of the Easter break and next week’s industrial action, NHS National Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis has warned that services are likely to be under pressure.
As ever, the public should use 999 in a life-threatening emergency, and use NHS 111 online for help and advice regarding any other health conditions.
From Good Friday to Easter Monday some pharmacies and GP surgeries may be closed or working reduced hours, but people can check which services near them are open over the bank holiday weekend using the Find a Pharmacy site.
Local areas have encouraged patients to order repeat prescriptions in advance and stock up on medicines they need, but they should use NHS 111 online if they find they have run out of something they need urgently.
The long bank holiday weekend is usually one of the busiest times for the NHS, with staff working incredibly hard to maintain services.
Junior doctors’ strikes are planned from Tuesday 11 to the morning of Saturday 14 April, which will likely cause significant disruption across services.
If patients have not been contacted by their local NHS they should attend any appointments as planned. The NHS will be in touch if an appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.
During the last round of junior doctors’ strikes the NHS had to postpone 175,000 appointments and operations, with a significantly greater number of appointments expected to be impacted this time.
Junior doctors make up around half of all doctors in the NHS – they are qualified doctors who have anywhere up to eight years’ experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to three years in general practice.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “There is no doubt that the next week will be extremely challenging for NHS services, with the long bank holiday weekend followed by four days of industrial action by junior doctors.
“We have not experienced industrial action on the back of a bank holiday before and so expect services across the country to be under much more pressure than usual.
“NHS staff are working as hard as they can to minimise disruption for patients and it remains important that members of the public know they should still continue to come forward for care, using 999 in life-threatening emergencies and 111 online for other urgent health conditions.
“With some pharmacies, GP and dental practices not necessarily open over the long weekend, please make sure you use the Find a Pharmacy website to check opening hours or use 111 online who can help direct you to urgent medical services if required – and have a happy Easter.”