Fears that this could be a challenging weekend for the NHS

Health care leaders have laid bare their concerns that this week’s industrial action could lead to a spike in attendances over the coming weekend.

It is feared that people will choose to wait to seek medical attention until after strike action by junior doctors ends at 7 a.m. on Saturday April 15, resulting in a challenging situation, putting NHS staff and services under even greater strain.

To avoid this scenario a plea has been issued to people across Suffolk and north east Essex to continue to seek help and support in the most appropriate way this week and not to put off getting health concerns checked out.

Dr Andrew Kelso, Medical Director at the NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, said: “I can wholly understand people’s motives in delaying seeking medical help, as they want to do their best to support NHS services during this incredibly challenging time.

“I implore them though not to do this and to understand that putting things off not only could result in their condition worsening but will also mean a huge surge in demand for services when this period of strike action ends.

“If you feel unwell make that call or click online to NHS 111, go to your local pharmacy where no appointment is needed to access help and advice or make contact with your local GP surgery. All these services are open and are there to help you, so please use them if you need to.

Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our hospitals’ teams have been working incredibly hard to plan for these four days of strike action, but of course, there’s no doubt that our patients will be adversely impacted, not just this week, but in the weeks to come as it will take time for our services to recover.

“I ask people to help us in two ways. Firstly, remember that our emergency departments remain open, and our staff are there to treat people with the most serious and life-threatening conditions, so don’t delay in getting help if you need it.

“Secondly, please don’t come to our emergency departments if you’ve got a minor illness or injury, either this week or beyond. With our staff and services under pressure that’s the last thing we need, especially since there are so many other health care options available, so please use them.

Nicola Cottington, Chief Operating Officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “To help the NHS we are asking local people to continue to seek the most appropriate source of treatment for their health needs this week.

“People will no doubt think this is a busy time so may decide to leave it until the weekend or next week. Please don’t do that. The NHS is open now.”