NHS leaders across the North West are urging the public to access services wisely, as the health service faces further disruption to routine care due to another period of industrial action this week, followed by the always busy August bank holiday, with pressures compounded by the summer holiday period.
From 7am on Thursday 24 August to 7am on Saturday 26 August 2023, hospital consultants will be on strike across the NHS in the North West, bringing almost all routine care to a standstill.
The NHS in the North West is urging people to plan ahead, as this will mean people are less likely to need help this weekend and remember to use www.111.nhs.uk to get the quickest help if they are injured or unwell and need urgent but not emergency advice. It is also important to ensure any prescribed medications have been collected, you have a well-stocked first aid kit and medicine cabinet at home, and check which high street community pharmacies will be open over the weekend.
The NHS will continue to prioritise emergency care during industrial action – the public should continue to use 999 in life threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for other health concerns.
In contrast to strike action among other staff groups, no other clinicians can provide cover for consultants, so any planned care delivered by junior doctors or other healthcare professionals, that requires even remote consultant supervision will need to be rescheduled.
This means a significant amount of planned care will also be affected, and many services will have avoided scheduling planned appointments altogether.
All this comes just ahead of the August Bank Holiday which is always a busy time for the NHS and sees pressure on the health service compounded by the summer holiday period.
Using 111 online gives the same responses as the phone service, but may give a quicker answer than contacting the phone line. In addition, community pharmacies offer a range of services and have a wealth of information and expertise if someone needs advice.
Dr Michael Gregory, Regional Medical Director for NHS England – North West said: “The consultant strikes will affect almost all routine care, across our region and place additional pressure on our urgent and emergency care services.
“The strikes, followed by the bank holiday, which often leads to a rise in demand for services, will mean that many of our services will be stretched, so its really important for everybody to be careful and use NHS services wisely.
“If you have a health concern, NHS 111 online is the best option for getting the care you need. But do continue to use 999 in life threatening emergencies.”
GP and pharmacy services will be available in the normal way during industrial action, but please check opening hours over the bank holiday. Some high street pharmacies will be open on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday – search online for ‘find a pharmacy’ or click Find a pharmacy – NHS (www.nhs.uk) for details.
Patients who haven’t been contacted or informed that their planned appointment has been postponed are also urged to attend as normal.
The walkout by consultants follows the latest period of industrial action by junior doctors across five days earlier in the month, which saw a further 61,200 hospital appointments postponed, with the cumulative total over more than eight months of strikes now running at 839,327.