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NHS trusts urge people to ‘use services wisely’ over next few days

NHS leaders across the country are urging people to “use services wisely” over the weekend as hospitals brace themselves for another round of industrial action.

Tens of thousands of junior doctors in England will stage a four day strike from 7am on Friday until 7am on Tuesday. It is the ninth round of industrial action in the ongoing pay dispute between NHS staff and the Government.

Junior doctors are staging their fifth strike, meaning services have seen more than 450 hours without a third of the medical workforce over the last five months – the equivalent of 19 full days. NHS performance data out on Thursday is expected to show the worsening impact of the dispute with the overall waiting list for treatment in England expected to have risen again to more than 7.5 million people.

Trust leaders said resources will be prioritised to protect emergency treatment, critical care, neonatal care and trauma, as well as patients who have waited the longest for elective care and cancer surgery. Urgent and emergency care services will be open during the industrial action period and people are urged to still call 999 or attend A&E services in the event of “life or limb threatening emergency”.

The UK’s leading heart and lung hospital, the Royal Papworth in Cambridge, was among many trusts which issued alerts to the public on Wednesday reminding people it has a reduced number of appointments over the next few days “to ensure patient safety during junior doctor strike action”. The hospital added: “If we have not contacted you, please attend your appointment as planned.”

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NHS Derby and Derbyshire said it expected “another period of significant disruption this week”, with potentially appointments and procedures postponed across the county due to the latest round of industrial action by junior doctors.

The Integrated Care Board said: “Please use health services wisely during industrial action and take simple steps to help ensure care is available to those who need it most.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) is campaigning for pay restoration citing a 26 per cent fall in real-terms pay since 2008. The Government recently announced a pay rise for junior doctors of 6 per cent plus a permanent £1,250 rise. Because of the different pay scales at different stages of training, this works out at an average pay rise of around 8.8 per cent – at least 8.1 per cent and up to 10.3 per cent depending on where they are in their training. The BMA has dismissed the offer which ministers say is final.

Meanwhile, radiographers in Northern Ireland are being balloted for strikes in the ongoing pay dispute in the health service. The Society of Radiographers said almost 1,000 of its members will vote in the coming weeks as part of a campaign to secure improvements to pay and conditions.

The society said nine out of 10 patients in Health and Social Care Northern Ireland are supported by a radiography professional but too few radiographers are being recruited or retained. As a result, more than 173,000 people are waiting for a diagnostic appointment – delaying vital diagnosis and treatment, said the society.

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