Junior doctors across the Humber region have begun a further round of industrial action this week as part of their long-running pay dispute with the Government.
Members of the BMA are taking industrial action in the form of a full walkout which started at 7am on Wednesday, January 3, and will continue through to 7am on Tuesday, January 9.
This will be mirrored by junior doctor members of the HCSA union.
The industrial action, the first of the new year, comes less than two weeks after another 72-hour strike by junior doctors concluded on December 23.
Dr Kate Wood, group chief medical officer for Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust and Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Early January is always one of the busiest times for local hospitals.
“It’s winter, so as you’d expect, we have lots of sick and vulnerable patients in our care, but we are also seeing the effects of viruses such as Covid-19, flu and norovirus in circulation too, which are also common at this time of year.
“With the festive period now over, we also find that some people who have previously put off seeking help for medical problems over Christmas and New Year come forward for treatment, and our emergency departments often bear the brunt of this as people want immediate help or are unable to see their GP.
“With a significantly reduced number of medical staff on duty across all of our hospitals, including Scunthorpe General, Hull Royal Infirmary, Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby, Goole and District, and Castle Hill Hospital, we are expecting the forthcoming strike dates to be incredibly busy.
“We’ve had to make some difficult decisions to cancel and reschedule people’s appointments so that staff who are not involved in the action can support colleagues in areas that are affected by the strike.
“We know how frustrating this can be, especially for those who have been waiting a long time to be seen or for their surgery, and we would like to apologise for that.
“As the strike is due to last for almost a week, one of our main areas of concern is emergency care, ensuring we maintain flow through the departments and that we’re able to continue prioritising the most seriously ill and injured.”
For this reason, people with non-life-threatening conditions are being urged to seek help elsewhere in the first instance, with NHS 111 recommended as a good place to start for advice and details on nearby services.
As fewer doctors will be on duty, the sickest patients will be prioritised, which may mean redirecting patients who attend with routine ailments or minor complaints to a more suitable place of care.
Some planned surgical activity will continue, as will some outpatient clinics, so where patients have been given an appointment between January 3-8 and have not heard from the NHS beforehand, they should assume their appointment is still going ahead as planned.
Officials have already contacted the majority of patients whose appointments have been affected by the action to update them and try to reschedule.
Dr Wood added: “As ever, we are grateful to all of our colleagues who will be supporting throughout the strikes, but the fact remains that our medical staffing levels will be notably reduced so we are preparing ourselves for a difficult week ahead.”
Patients can also help themselves and others by:
- Ordering repeat prescriptions in plenty of time so they do not run out of medication or other essential items
- Avoiding hospital if suffering norovirus-type symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting, or with cold or flu-like symptoms
- Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home including painkillers, indigestion remedies and diarrhoea tablets
- Using the NHS Emergency Prescription Service if a regular medication runs out completely
- Taking up the offer of Covid and flu vaccinations where eligible
- Familiarising themselves with nearby NHS services that can offer help both in and out-of-hours; these include all walk-in and urgent treatment centres and a number of local pharmacies. NHS 111 remains available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for medical advice and signposting, online or over the phone.