Suffolk hospitals are focusing on emergency care this week as they grapple with the longest strike action the NHS has seen, taken by junior doctors.

The NHS has warned the impact will be one of the most difficult starts to the year, during a time that is traditionally one of the busiest weeks of the year for health services.

Junior doctors will be taking part in industrial action from 7am on Wednesday, (January 3) until 7am on Tuesday, January 9.

It will be the longest consecutive strike action ever taken in the history of the NHS, and could see up to half of the medical workforce in England walk out.

The strike concerns a pay dispute between the government and medics in training from the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA).

Read more: Junior doctors stage ‘unprecedented’ strike – what do I need to know?

Almost all pre-planned (elective) hospital services will be affected as the NHS shifts its focus to urgent and emergency care.

GP and pharmacy services will be unaffected by the strike.

Junior doctors took action for three days before Christmas, which led to thousands of appointments being postponed.

Nicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have well-worn plans in place to maintain patient safety over this extended period of industrial action and colleagues are working very hard to look after patients.

Ipswich Star: Nicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

“Whilst our emergency department will remain open throughout these six days, we will be extremely busy, and patients will most likely have to wait longer than usual. In an emergency or life-threatening situation please call 999.

"If it is not an emergency, please consider other options to coming to our emergency department, such as seeing your GP, visiting your local pharmacist or using NHS 111.

“Unfortunately, we have had to postpone some appointments and procedures. We know this can be upsetting and frustrating for patients and we have prioritised those with most clinical need in our planning.

“If your appointment or procedure has been postponed, we will be in touch with you to arrange this at the earliest opportunity. If you have not heard from us, please attend as planned.”

Dr Angela Tillett, deputy chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said: “We have been carefully planning for the junior doctors’ strike action this week.

Ipswich Star: Dr Angela Tillett, ESNEFT'S medical director, has moved to reassure patients Picture: ESNEFT

“During this time our focus will be on maintaining the patient safety and providing urgent and emergency services. This means we will have to reschedule some appointments and operations.

“We always try to reschedule these appointments as quickly as possible. Patients should continue to attend their appointments unless we have contacted them.

 “It is really important that patients know they can continue to seek medical help if they need it during the strike action, either via NHS 111 online or via 999/A&E if they have a life-threatening emergency.”