Only use A&E – in an emergency

Dr Radhakrishna Shanbhag

Dr Radhakrishna Shanbhag

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HEALTH chiefs have urged people to only use emergency medical services if absolutely necessary during a doctors’ strike today.

However, bosses at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust moved to reassure patients “most” services – including all emergency and essential health care and community health services – will carry on as normal during the industrial action.

It has been organised by the British Medical Association (BMA) in a dispute with the Government over the future of the NHS pension scheme.

And Pat Oliver, director of operations for the trust, told The Gazette: “We are working very hard to minimise disruption to patients and ensure services are safe.

“We have worked in partnership with our BMA representatives and senior doctors in order to ensure we are able to provide essential care during the day of action.

“We would, however, ask people to think carefully before attending A&E on the day for any non-urgent care needs, instead people should contact their GP or consider using their local pharmacy.

“This will help ensure emergency services are free to deal with serious and life-threatening situations.”

Those patients with planned appointments will have been notified if their appointments have to be cancelled, all other patients should attend the hospital as normal.

Where appointments have had to be postponed, plans have been put in place to make sure they are re-scheduled as soon as possible.

Dr Radhakrishna Shanbhag, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital and chairman of the BMA’s Staff and Associate Specialist (SAS) Committee welcomed the news patients should not be adversely affected.

He said: “It is reassuring to hear managers have been working with doctors to minimise disruption to patients tomorrow.

“Doctors have not taken the decision to take industrial action over attacks on their pensions lightly.

“This is the first time we have done so in 40 years and only after trying every other avenue to bring the Government back to negotiations on its unnecessary changes to NHS pensions.

“We still hope they will return to meaningful talks so this action can be called off.

“Patient safety is our absolute priority – all emergency care, or other care patients urgently needed, will be provided and doctors will be in their usual places of work.

“We have been planning with managers to ensure a safe service can be provided, and patients get as much notice as possible of any impact on them.”