Visit pharmacy or call NHS 111 during junior doctor strike to help A&E wards, health chiefs warn

Junior doctors on strike at Ipswich Hospital last month.

Junior doctors on strike at Ipswich Hospital last month.

Health chiefs are urging people to consider visiting their local pharmacy or calling NHS 111 to ease pressure at hospital A&E wards during this week’s junior doctor strike.

Thousands of junior doctors in England are due to walk out again on Wednesday over a row with the Government about changes to their contracts, including seven-day working.

Strike action last month resulted in the postponement of thousands of procedures nationwide, and patients are fearful another round will leave plenty more facing fresh waits for routine operations.

Ahead of the 24-hour strike, which is due to start at 8am on Wednesday and will mean hospitals will run only emergency cover, the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have asked people to think of alternatives to attending hospital emergency departments.

A CCG spokesman said: “Hospitals and GP surgeries across east and west Suffolk are preparing for the impact of industrial action by junior doctors on Wednesday.

“People are being asked to try to use pharmacies or call NHS 111 instead of visiting hospitals. Family doctors and nurses are expecting to be busy on the day, so please consider if your condition is urgent.”

The NHS has outlined the following advice to people during the strike:

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- Patients in need of urgent and emergency care will still be able to access the care they need. The Emergency Departments (A&E) at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals will be open

- Patients with less urgent need who arrive at the Emergency Department may experience delays. Priority will be given to those with the most pressing health needs

- Some hospital appointments and procedures will be cancelled. Those patients affected will be contacted direct by the hospital as soon as possible. If patients are not contacted they should attend as originally planned

- Make sure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet with basic supplies which will enable you to treat minor injury and illness at home

- If you are feeling unwell, don’t wait until Wednesday 10 February before taking action – speak to your pharmacist or call NHS 111

- GPs will also be busy on Wednesday 10 February, so please consider if you can wait and book an appointment on another day

- Local pharmacies are a great source of help and advice and can offer over-the-counter medicine to treat your condition

- People should call 999 only in an emergency

- If the situation is not an emergency call NHS 111 – the service is open 24 hours a day and you will speak to a Suffolk-based advisor who will advise on the best course of action.