Four-day strike by junior doctors will cause “major disruption”, according to a local GP

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A planned four-day strike by junior doctors across Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and the rest of the country will cause “major disruption”, according to the GP who is the chief medical director for the NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes integrated care board.

The 96-hour stoppage involving more than 40,000 junior doctors comes straight off the back of the Easter bank holiday weekend, adding to the concerns of health management in the region.

“For them not to be there really is concerning,” warned the chief medical director for the NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes integrated care board, Dr Sarah Whiteman.

Patients nationally can expect to face around ten days of disruption and distress because of the timing of this walkout by junior doctors.

The Easter period is a generally busy time for primary care hospitals, according to Dr Whiteman, and the action coincides with school holidays when more staff are likely to be on leave.

“This four-day strike, from 7am on Tuesday, 11 April to 7am on Saturday, 15 April, comes straight after Easter,” she explained.

“That will cause major disruption. I and my colleagues are worried how patients will adapt to these circumstances, with the likelihood of long waits.

“We would encourage people to only use accident and emergency if it’s a life-threatening or an emergency situation.

“But the 111 service will still be operating normally, while GPs and primary care premises will open as usual.”

More than 250,000 operations and appointments are expected to be cancelled as a result of the industrial action.

“We’d encourage people to do what they can before seeking help over less pressing issues,” explained Dr Whiteman.

“Those of us working will be doing our best. Of course, we’ll continue to maintain high standards within the NHS.”

A three-day strike by junior doctors was staged in March over a pay restoration claim. The British Medical Association, claims their real-terms pay has been cut by 26.1 per cent since 2008, requiring a 35.3 per cent salary increase.

Talks

Talks resumed afterwards between the union and NHS management, but a breakthrough remains elusive.

“The worst affected area last time was definitely accident and emergency, with three in the BLMK area,” added Dr Whiteman. “People are reassured by the standards of care there. Paediatrics is pressurised at the moment.

“It’s the knock-on effects of Easter, then the strike and possible time off in lieu resulting. This has enormous implications.”

A BLMK health and care partnership spokesman said: “We’re not asking the public to change their behaviour.

“We’re also advising patients to go and get treatment for genuine accidents. We just want to avoid undue stress on the system.”

If a major incident occurs in the BLMK area, junior doctors would respond if necessary, he added.

“The industrial action will take the form of a full stoppage of work, including night shifts, on-call shifts, and non-resident work,” said a letter from NHS England to ICBs, NHS Trusts and NHS England regions.

“The priority for the NHS is to mitigate risk to patient safety and to ensure we maintain a safe urgent and emergency care pathway, while critical care, maternity, neonatal care and trauma sites are resilient.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter