Information for the public on industrial action

  • The NHS is already facing record demand on urgent and emergency care services – October and November were the busiest on record for A&E attendances and the most serious ambulance callouts. Industrial action means these services will be under increased pressure so it is vital that people use the services available appropriately.
  • Regardless of any strike action taking place, it is really important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.
  • If we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned. The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.
  • GP services are not impacted by this strike action. Please continue to attend your GP appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.
  • The NHS is asking patients to use services wisely during industrial action and take simple steps to help ensure care is available to patients who need it most. This includes using 111 online as the first port of call for health needs and continuing to only use 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Patients should only call 999 if it is a medical or mental health emergency (when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk).
  • Ambulances will still be able to respond in these situations, but this may only be where there is an immediate risk to life.
  • Patients should take advice from 111/999 call-handlers on whether there are circumstances where it is suitable for them to make their own way to hospital.
  • There will be fewer ambulances on the roads during industrial action, with the NHS prioritising those with life-threatening needs. As a result patients whose conditions are not life-threatening may not get an ambulance on strike days.
  • During strike days, there is an expectation 999 services will be exempt; however, it is likely 999 call handlers will be very busy. NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff, with longer call response times expected across the system. As a result, we are urging anyone with non-urgent care needs to first seek help from NHS 111 online.
  • The NHS is also asking the public to play their part by taking simple steps during industrial action to look after themselves, loved ones and checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours.

For more information on when to call 999 and when to go to A&E, you can visit the NHS UK website.

Frequently asked questions

What is happening?

Trade unions representing NHS staff are in dispute with the government over the 2022/23 pay award. A number of the unions have balloted their NHS members to take part in industrial action. As a result, members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are striking on 6 and 7 February, and members of the GMB and UNISON (ambulance staff) are striking on 23 January 2023. Members of the GMB are striking at West Midlands Ambulance Service only on 23 January, and GMB members at North West Ambulance service only are striking on 24 January. Members of the GMB are also striking on 6 and 20 February and 6 and 20 March. Ambulance workers who are members of Unite will also strike on 6, 17, 20 February and 20 March. Members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy are striking on 26 January and 9 February.

The NHS wants to see a resolution as soon as possible, but pay is a matter for the government and the trade unions. Read more information about the strikes at NHS briefing: Industrial action winter 2022.

What if I need urgent or emergency care?

Anyone who needs urgent care should use NHS111 online or call NHS 111 to be assessed and directed to the right care for them. If you do not have internet access then 111 helpline is available.

When someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, you should seek emergency care in the normal way, by calling 999 or attending A&E.

What do strikes mean for NHS services in my area?

Not every hospital and ambulance service will be affected by strike action. You can check which trusts are affected on each trade union’s website:

What if I have an appointment on a strike day?

Everyone who has an appointment should attend as planned, unless your local NHS provider has contacted you to reschedule. If we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment even if your Trust is affected by strikes.  

Will emergency care be affected on strike days?

Emergency care will continue to be available across all parts of the country. It is really important that in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or their life is at risk patients continue to come forward as normal.

I have a loved one who will be a hospital inpatient on strike day – how will their care be affected?

All hospital inpatients will be informed of how their care will be impacted on a ward-by-ward basis by the staff involved in delivering their care.

Will GP services be affected on strike days?

GP services will be running as normal on strike days. Please continue to attend scheduled GP appointments.

When will I find out if my appointment is rescheduled?

The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action. This is likely to be a text, phone call or a letter, and you should be offered an alternative date for your appointment. If we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned.

If my appointment is rescheduled, will I be put back to the bottom of the waiting list?

Any appointments that need to be rescheduled will be done so as a priority.

Is there anything I should do now?

No, the NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.

Should I cancel my appointment on the day of strikes?

No, if we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned.

What should I do if I need an ambulance?

On strike days, patients should only call 999 if seriously ill or injured, and there is risk to life. Ambulances will be dispatched where clinically appropriate.

For all other health care needs support will be available through NHS 111 online, via the NHS 111 helpline or at your local GP or pharmacy.

The NHS.UK website has more information on when to call 999 and when to go to A&E.

What is considered an emergency?

Patients should only call 999 if seriously ill or injured, and there is risk to life. Ambulances will be dispatched where clinically appropriate.

How long will services be impacted?

The nurses strikes on 6 and 7 February will last for 12 hours. The ambulance strikes on 23 January, 6, 17, 20, and 22 February and 20 February, and 6 and 20 March will last for up to 24 hours. However, patients should be aware that it may take slightly longer for services to return to normal.