The Medical Director of NHS Suffolk and North East Essex has said while he fully respects everyone’s right to strike, it will take time for services to get back to normal after this week’s 72-hour industrial action by junior doctors.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) have been taking action as part of their ongoing dispute with the government for better pay and conditions.
Dr Andrew Kelso said emergency departments within the system’s three hospitals have experienced their busiest Monday for A&E attendance so far this year as industrial action started.
Other services including ambulance, mental health and some community services have also experienced a significant impact.
He said: “I am very supportive of colleagues’ right to strike and understand their reasons for doing so.
“The knock-on effect of a three-day strike will be felt for some time to come.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to minimise disruption and prevent harm to patients.”
Dr Kelso added there has been increased levels of cover by senior doctors in several services.
He said: “During this week, we have seen many senior clinicians step in to cover the gaps in the rota.
“I would like to thank the many consultants and middle grade doctors who did provide such support during this week as well as those junior doctors who did decide to come into work.
“However, it has been the case that some patients have experienced delays for admissions and being discharged from hospitals.
“I remain grateful to those patients who have used services wisely this week – please continue to use 111 online, your local pharmacist or contact your GP practice for advice and support.”
Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, echoed the comments.
He said: “There have been many management and administrative colleagues from across the system who have worked tirelessly during these past three days to keep services running.
“They have been responding to operational demands while ensuring safety and minimal disruption to patients at times of significant pressure.
“They were also involved in cancelling and rebooking patient appointments – vital roles which often involved them working outside their area of responsibility.”