NEWS ALERT: NHS staff in Hertfordshire and West Essex appeal for public support ahead of Easter bank holiday weekend and four-day junior doctors’ strike.
Hospitals in Hertfordshire and West Essex are preparing for significant disruption as a four-day junior doctors’ strike is set to take place from 7am on Tuesday 11 April to 7am on Saturday 15 April. The strike comes immediately after the Easter bank holiday weekend, when health services will be operating at full capacity to meet demand.
The public is being urged to only visit accident and emergency departments at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Lister Hospital in Stevenage, and Watford General Hospital for serious illnesses or injuries. Patients with pre-booked appointments should attend as scheduled unless they have been contacted and their appointments have been postponed.
With only a third of doctors expected to be working, hospitals will not be able to run as normal, and services will be under immense pressure for several days. Emergency and routine care are likely to be significantly affected, and some non-urgent operations, treatments, and appointments will be postponed to prioritize life-saving emergency treatment. Patients affected by this postponement will be contacted directly.
NHS 111 will be available 24 hours a day for urgent medical help or advice on where to go. Some pharmacies will be open over the Easter weekend, and GP practices will open on Tuesday morning. Patients are advised to be patient with practice teams as they may receive a high volume of calls. The NHS has expressed its gratitude for the public’s understanding and support during this challenging time.
Top tips for Hertfordshire and west Essex residents
- If you need urgent health help, use NHS 111 online (www.111.nhs.uk) or call 111. Your symptoms will be assessed, and you will be provided with healthcare advice or an appointment to see a doctor or nurse if this is needed. NHS 111 can also send an ambulance and can book an appointment for you in some services like urgent treatment centres.
- If you are in a mental health crisis, call NHS 111 and get straight through to mental health help by selecting option 2.
- If you take regular medication, put in your request for a repeat prescription now, so that you have enough to last you through the four-day bank holiday weekend, when GP surgeries are closed.
- If you are travelling at Easter, remember to take your medication with you and remind family or friends visiting you to do the same.
- Feeling a bit under the weather? The NHS website has lots of advice to help you to look after yourself when you have minor symptoms. There is also information about what is a serious medical emergency: When to call 999 – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Pick up a few medicines while you’re shopping so that you can look after very minor illnesses or injuries yourself. You can buy basic essentials like paracetamol, ibuprofen, plasters, antiseptic cream, allergy medicine and indigestion remedies from pharmacies and supermarkets for less than the cost of a prescription. Remember, cheaper non-branded versions of medicines work just as well as branded products.
- You can find a list of pharmacies open on Good Friday and Easter Monday by visiting www.nhs.uk and using the ‘Find a Pharmacy’ tool.
- Your GP practice will open on Tuesday 11 April at 8am. Phone lines are likely to be even busier than normal after the long weekend, so please be patient as practice staff try to help as many people as they can. If you have a computer or smartphone, you can use your GP practice’s e-consultation service, which directs your query quickly to the right member of practice staff, and helps free up the telephone lines for those who aren’t online.
- Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments at our hospitals only have the capacity to treat people who have serious or life-threatening conditions. If you use emergency services with a minor issue you are risking the lives of others and may not get the treatment for your symptoms as quickly as you will elsewhere.
- Do not visit anyone in a hospital or care home if you have recently had diarrhoea or vomiting. Stomach bugs are easily spread, make already ill people very seriously unwell, and can lead to whole hospital wards being closed. Please wait 48 hours after your last bout of sickness or diarrhoea before visiting anyone who is vulnerable.