The NHS has put out a plea to use services 'wisely' ahead of another round of junior doctors' strikes, which this time includes the withdrawal of emergency care.
NHS officials say robust plans are in place to cope with the strikes on Tuesday April 26 and Wednesday April 27 - running from 8am-5pm on both days - but that it will nevertheless place 'considerable pressure on the health service at a point when it is already facing significant demand'.
This is the first in a long line of strikes , and again means some medical procedures will not be going ahead at west London hospitals.
Will emergency care be available at my hospital?
Although junior doctors will not be providing emergency care, other doctors and NHS staff will continue to provide care during the strike periods.
However, the NHS says it expects services will be affected as a result of the industrial action, and patients should be considerate about whether going to A&E is the right decision for their ailment.
What if I have an operation booked during the strikes?
The London North West Healthcare NHS Trust says if patients have non-urgent operations or a non-urgent outpatient appointment on April 26 or 27 at Central Middlesex, Ealing, Northwick Park or St. Mark’s hospitals this may need to be rescheduled to another date.
However, the trust said patients affected would be contacted on Monday (April 25) about appointment rescheduling, so anyone not contacted can assume their procedure will go ahead as planned.
'Think twice' before visiting A&E
The public are warned that A&E waiting times are likely to be increased during the strike periods.
A spokesperson for the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “These two days of strikes are the first to action a full withdrawal of labour which also includes emergency cover.
“We therefore urge the public to think twice before coming to A&E during what will be a very busy time."
Some scheduled appointments and procedures have been cancelled and patients will be contacted directly with details as to what is happening with their appointment.
If you have been given instructions to attend your appointment in the event of the strike being cancelled at short notice, please follow the instructions you have been given.
There are important steps that patients can take to prepare for the industrial action and to use services wisely.
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Preparing for the industrial action
- Make sure that medicine cabinets are well stocked with essentials such as ibuprofen, antacids, and bandages
- Check that any regular prescriptions you need have been filled, and that you have made any appointments that you need with GPs or practice nurses
- If you have an appointment for an operation or procedure during the strike period, your service provider will contact you to rearrange it
Services that will be open
NHS advice online or on the phone: In the event that people do need medical help or advice on the strike days, they are strongly encouraged to use NHS choices or NHS 111 in the first instance, if possible, or visit the NHS RightCare4U website .
GPs: They can also seek advice from their local pharmacist or GP as these services will be open during the industrial action.
Call 999 in life-threatening emergencies: People that require care for serious or life-threatening emergencies should call 999 as usual or, if possible, make their own way to A&E.
Anyone needing urgent or emergency care will continue to receive it – as they would at Christmas and other bank holidays.
The NHS is open for business but the public are advised to use it wisely during this very challenging time. Some services may change or be busier than usual, so contact services early if you need to book appointments during this period.
Alternatively, if you live in Hillingdon, you can call 01895 279996 to hear a recorded message with the latest information.