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NHS faces tough new year due to record industrial action amidst growing winter pressures

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The strikes will have a significant impact on almost all routine care, warns England’s top doctor

In what could be the longest consecutive strike action ever taken in the history of the National Health Service (NHS), junior doctors are set to begin their six-day walkout from tomorrow (Wednesday 3 January) at 7am, until 7am on Tuesday 9 January.

As the record industrial action has come in the middle of growing winter pressures, the NHS England has warned that this week could be one of “the most difficult starts to the year” for health services across the country.

With consultant busy covering urgent and emergency cases, the strikes could have a significant impact on almost all routine care.

NHS National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis said: “This January could be one of the most difficult starts to the year the NHS has ever faced.

“Six consecutive days of industrial action comes at one of our busiest periods – the action will not only have an enormous impact on planned care, but comes on top of a host of seasonal pressures such as covid, flu, and staff absences due to sickness – all of which is impacting on how patients flow through hospitals.”

He is also worried that the action will continue to have a “serious impact” in the weeks after, as the NHS recovers services and deals with additional demand.

Junior doctors’ previous three-day action, which began immediately before Christmas, led to thousands of appointments being postponed.

The NHS is already under significant pressure seasonal illnesses, with the latest data showing that the number of hospital admissions due to flu has increased to an average of 942 each day last week – almost six times the number compared to the week before.

However, Professor Powis is encouraging people to continue to use their GP services and local pharmacies in the usual way, and call 999 and A&E in life threatening emergencies.

 

 

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