Junior doctors are preparing to stage the longest strike in NHS history as medics will walk out for six days, which comes at a time when the service is “most stretched.”
The strike action will start from 7am on Wednesday 3 January until 7am on Tuesday 9 January, which will “the most difficult start to the year the NHS has ever faced.”
NHS England’s national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said, “This January could be one of the most difficult starts to the year the NHS has ever faced.
“Six consecutive days of industrial action comes at one of our busiest periods – the action will not only have an enormous impact on planned care, but comes on top of a host of seasonal pressures such as Covid, flu, and staff absences due to sickness – all of which is impacting on how patients flow through hospitals.
“Our colleagues across the health service are doing their very best for patients every day, with extensive preparations in place, but there’s no doubt they are starting 2024 on the back foot – not only will action impact next week, it will continue to have a serious impact in the weeks after, as we recover services and deal with additional demand.
“However, I cannot stress enough that people who need care must come forward as they usually would – using 999 and A&E in life-threatening emergencies and 111 online for everything else.”
Professor Yvonne Doyle, former medical director at Public Health England, told Times Radio, “The NHS is resourceful and it is making arrangements to try and cover as much as possible and putting messages out to the population about what we can do as well to help at this time.
“This is the period of the year when the NHS is always at its most stretched.
“There is quite a lot of infection at the moment: more flu, quite a lot of Covid, there is a good deal of norovirus.
“There are things that everyone can do to actually help with that, and also look after themselves. Top of the list, for those who are eligible, is to get vaccinated, but also if you have got infection, keep away from people… try and limit your contact with people.
“And the other factor at this time of the year is cold weather – so older people, and people who are vulnerable to stroke, (should try to) to keep warm.”