NHS faces fresh strike disruption amid heat health warnings

The NHS will face major disruption this week as junior doctors launch five days of industrial action, with services already under increasing pressure, England’s top doctor has warned today.

With Yellow Heat Health Alerts for many parts of the country, the NHS is urging the public to use services as they normally would if they need them – with NHS 111 services available for urgent needs, and 999 for emergencies.

The latest strike action will run from 7am on Thursday (27 June) until 7am on Tuesday 2 July, and is set to affect most routine care as the NHS prioritises urgent and emergency care, with consultants stepping in to cover for junior doctors, who make up 50% of the medical workforce.

Since strikes began in late 2022, more than 1.4 million inpatient and outpatient appointments have had to be rescheduled. During the most recent action in February, 91,048 inpatient and outpatient appointments were rescheduled, and 23,760 staff were absent from work at the peak of the strikes.

This week’s industrial action comes after more than 2.4 million people attended A&Es across the country in May – the busiest month on record – which followed the busiest ever April for diagnostic activity, with over 2.3 million tests, checks and scans carried out.

Although extensive planning and cover arrangements are in place, the strikes are expected to cause widespread disruption to routine care and difficulties with discharging patients.

Staff have been working hard this week to mitigate the impact, with trusts putting in place measures to maintain care for those who need it urgently, and rescheduling planned appointments which are now unable to go ahead.

The NHS is reminding people that they should continue to use services as they normally would when they need urgent medical help – using 999 and A&E in life-threatening emergencies only – and to continue to attend planned appointments unless they have been contacted to say they have been postponed.

NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “This new round of strike action will again hit the NHS very hard, with almost all routine care likely to be affected, and services put under significant pressure.

“While the warmer weather can lead to additional pressure on services at a time when demand for services is already high.

“As ever, we are working to ensure urgent and emergency care is prioritised for patients, but there is no doubt that it becomes harder each time to bring routine services back on track following strikes, and the cumulative effect for patients, staff and the NHS as a whole is enormous.

“People should continue to use 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 – on the NHS App, online, or by phone – for other health concerns. GP services and pharmacies are also available for patients and can be accessed in the normal way, and patients who haven’t been contacted or informed that their planned appointment has been postponed are also urged to attend as normal.”