Junior doctors across Sussex are set to begin a two-day strike today (Tuesday, April 26).
The strike will be the first ‘full withdrawal of labour’, taking place from 8am to 5pm today and tomorrow (Wednesday, April 27) – 18 hours in total.
This means junior doctors will not be providing emergency cover as they have done during previous strike action.
On Sunday, Dr Mark Porter, British Medical Association council chairman, responded to a letter from Jeremy Hunt regarding the junior doctor contract dispute.
In an open letter to the health secretary, he wrote: “As you know, we have been pushing for further talks on the junior doctor contract ever since your announcement of imposition in February.
“While we remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, this cannot take place with the threat of imposition hanging over our junior doctors’ heads.
“They have consistently made clear that this would be unacceptable, hence our clear offer to you last week.
“I am now repeating this offer as a way to break the current impasse: if you agree to lift imposition while talks resume, we will immediately call off the industrial action planned for April 26 and 27.
“For the sake of clarity, we must, once again, reject your assertion that the only outstanding issue in dispute relates to Saturday pay.
“Your own letter recognises a number of critical issues concerning work-life balance, excessive working hours, improvements in training and crucially, workforce and funding implications for seven day services.”
Health trusts across the county have issued advice to patients ahead of this week’s strike action, with disruption to procedures and appointments expected across the board.
Western Sussex Hospitals, which runs St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, and Worthing Hospital, said it has been ‘making preparations’ for the two full walk outs proposed by the BMA.
Medical director Dr George Findlay said: “Robust contingency plans are being put in place to ensure that patients are safe at all times during the days of industrial action and we would like to reassure people that patient safety is our top priority.
“If the strike action goes ahead, we will continue to provide full emergency services, but this will mean that a number of our outpatient appointments and surgical operations will need to be rescheduled to ensure patient safety.
“We apologise in advance for this disruption.
“We will be contacting patients who are affected.
“However, if you have an appointment on one of these days and you have not been contacted to reschedule, please attend your appointment as normal.”
A spokesman for the trust urged people to only call 999 or go to A&E for ‘serious emergency illness or injury’.
“Other services are available for less urgent or minor ailments include your local pharmacy and walk in centres,” they said.
“NHS 111 and www.nhs.uk is also easily accessible for fast support and advice if you are not clear what to do.
“Please leave A&E for those who really need it.”
A statement from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest Hospital, Hastings, and Eastbourne District General Hospital, said measures had been put in place to ensure ‘services remain safe’.
“Emergency care will be prioritised – we will continue to provide all urgent and emergency care services, including A&E and maternity, and all community services,” said the trust.
“Our consultants will cover the usual duties of our junior doctors on our hospital wards to ensure the safety of inpatients.
“We have rescheduled virtually all operations and procedures along with outpatient appointments which were due to take place during the industrial action.
“Patients whose appointments or procedures have regrettably been cancelled as a result of the industrial action, have been contacted directly.
“They have been told their appointment or procedure will be rebooked as soon as possible.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our patients during this period of industrial action, these are circumstances outside our control (this is a national strike).
“Patients and the public can help us during this busy time by choosing the appropriate health services for them – details of local services are available on the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk/strike.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, has also issued advice ahead of the planned strike.
“We are working hard to make sure as few patients as possible are affected by the industrial action,” said a statement.
“Maintaining the safety of our patients is our priority throughout the two days and we have detailed speciality-specific plans in place to ensure disruption to services is kept to a minimum.”
The trust said it would contact patients with planned operations, procedures or outpatient appointments which needed to be rearranged.
Anyone not contacted should assume their appointment is going ahead as planned.
“Accident and emergency departments will be open for patients with serious and life threatening conditions, with essential care being provided by senior staff,” said the trust’s website.
“As is always the case to ensure that we can treat those who most need it, only those patients with serious and life threatening conditions should visit their A&E.”
Strike action is also set to impact services provided by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, which runs East Surrey Hospital.
“We have put plans in place to ensure the minimum inconvenience is caused to our patients during the junior doctors’ industrial action,” said a spokesman.
“Our teams of consultant and speciality doctors will be working and providing care during this period alongside our nurses, therapists and other teams across the trust.
“We have contacted patients who are affected by the industrial action and we are rescheduling their appointments and have some additional clinics arranged including this Saturday.
“We thank our patients for their understanding during this time and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1) Make our website your homepage
2) Like our Facebook page
3) Follow us on Twitter
4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
Always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.