The busiest time of year for the NHS in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire looks set to be even more challenging as two periods of industrial action are planned for either side of the Christmas and New Year break, with the first walk-out starting today.
To help relieve the pressure and show support to the frontline teams working over the festive period, local people are being asked to only visit hospital in the event of a genuine, life-threatening emergency.
Junior doctors at all three of the region’s large hospitals will first walk out for three days between 7am on Wednesday 20th and 7am on Saturday 23rd December.
This will then be followed by a longer period of strike action, which is set to begin at 7am on Wednesday 3rd and run until 7am on Tuesday 9th January.
During these times, urgent and emergency services will be severely stretched, and the wait for care may be significantly longer than usual.
Many routine appointments and pre-planned appointments are also likely to be postponed, with affected patients being contacted directly.
Dr Jon Westbrook, Chief Medical Officer, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are expecting the Christmas period to be very busy, during a time when our services will be impacted by industrial action.
“That’s why we are asking local people to help us by choosing the right place for their care needs before coming to hospital.
“Over Christmas, we will need to prioritise those in a more serious or life-threatening condition, which is why we’re asking people to only dial 999 in an emergency and use NHS 111 for non-life-threatening care, as well as local pharmacies and GPs.
“Anyone with an appointment should continue to attend as planned, unless contacted directly.”
NHS 111 will be open around-the-clock during the Christmas and New Year period, with people able to use both the telephone and online services to get rapid medical assistance at home, such as how to treat minor illnesses and where to go for further care.
A small number of pharmacies will be open on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day for any people in need of an emergency prescription, urgent advice on medicine or a confidential consultation for a minor health concern.
Opening times for all of the region’s pharmacies, including those staying open on the bank holidays, can be found online using the Find a Pharmacy tool.
Additionally, pharmacy opening times will be added to the ICB website, as well as advertised on the ICB’s Facebook, Instagram and X accounts over the coming days.