Junior doctors across the country have started the first ever all-out strike. Although junior doctors have taken part in industrial action over the last few months, this is the first time in the history of the NHS that emergency services will be affected.
From 8am, junior doctors across England will take part in a mass walk out following ongoing disputes between the government and the British Medical Association. The latest strike is in response to talk of an imposition of a new contract, which has been rejected by the BMA. For the first time, emergency care, intensive care and maternity services will be affected as well as routine and non-urgent services.
The NHS insists that measures are in place to protect members of the public and it is possible for hospitals to call in junior doctors if the need arises. Consultants will be stepping in to fill the shoes of junior doctors during the planned strike, which is due to last until 5pm. Doctors will also be striking between 8am and 5pm tomorrow (Wednesday 27th April).
In order to prepare for the walk out, the NHS has postponed 13,000 routine operations and around 100,00 scheduled appointments to ensure that enough members of staff are available to treat patients in urgent need of care. Consultants, extra nurses and senior doctors have been drafted in to help staff emergency departments, intensive care wards and maternity wards. Holiday and annual leave have been cancelled. GP surgeries are providing more urgent appointments and extra members of staff will be operating 111 phone lines.
Anne Rainsberry from NHS England said that robust contingency plans have been drawn up to provide the necessary care for those in need of emergency treatment or maternity services. Although strike action causes considerable upset to day to day services, the NHS is confident that it will be able to deal with priority cases today and tomorrow.
Patients have been advised to think carefully about which services they use today. Anyone who does not require urgent medical attention is encouraged to contact their GP rather than going to Accident and Emergency.