The number of postponed appointments on strike days has now topped 10,000 at one hospital group – and with a fresh wave of industrial action on the horizon, that figure is set to rise further.
Junior doctors at St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group will join colleagues across the country on strike from 7am on Friday until 7am on Tuesday.
It is the fifth time they have done so this year and – coupled with a consultants’ strike last month – has resulted in 10,051 appointments, procedures, and operations being rescheduled to ensure emergency care can be prioritised.
The British Medical Association explains the reasons for the strikes: “While workload and waiting lists are at record highs, junior doctors’ pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008/9. Junior doctors and their patients need change now.
A crippling cost-of-living crisis, burnout and well below inflation pay rises are driving hard working doctors out of their profession, at a time when we need them more than ever.
In 2022, junior doctors were offered an insulting and well below inflation pay rise of 2%.
No-one can be expected to stay in a high pressured job where your earnings are being eroded year on year. That’s why we are calling on the Government for full pay restoration.”
This makes it all the more important that people who do have an appointment continue to attend, unless they have been asked not to. Patients whose appointments have been rescheduled will be contacted directly.
Dr Luci Etheridge, Chief Medical Officer for St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our message remains the same as it always has: if you need care, please continue to come forward. That means if you have an appointment and you haven’t heard from us you should still come in, and if it’s life-threatening you should visit an emergency department or call 999.
“But if you have an appointment and you can no longer make it, please let us know so our frontline doctors and nurses can use their time more effectively to treat other patients and work to reduce our waiting lists.”
The hospital group saw extraordinary demand earlier this summer – including the busiest day ever in its emergency departments and a busier-than-usual June.
NHS 111 online should always be the first port of call when you have a health need that’s not an emergency, as it will direct you to the best place to get help for your symptoms.
Pharmacies, meanwhile, can offer advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, and aches and pains. Some pharmacies will be open at weekends, and you can find your nearest one here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/pharmacy/find-a-pharmacy
In a life-threatening emergency, you should always call 999 or go to an emergency department.
Dr Beccy Suckling, Chief Medical Officer for Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Earlier this summer it was very busy, and more recently we saw an increase in very unwell people coming to hospital. This, as you would expect, has put a strain on our services.
“We always prioritise our sickest and most seriously ill patients – and that means that those coming to our emergency departments when it is not as urgent will experience longer waits, and may be redirected elsewhere. Please help us when it is not an emergency by using NHS 111 online first.”
If you need mental health support in a crisis, and live in Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton or Wandsworth you can call South West London’s 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line on 0800 028 8000. There’s more information about this service here: https://www.swlstg.nhs.uk/patients-carers/crisis-support/mental-health-support-line
For adults, young people, and children in Surrey and North East Hampshire, 24-hour support is available by calling: 0800 915 4644. There’s more information here: https://www.sabp.nhs.uk/our-services