Now GPs suspend routine appointments for patients to deal with four-day NHS strike


GP surgeries are suspending routine appointments for patients as the public is being urged to ‘think twice before you go’ to AE this week amid fears the four-day walkout will be the ‘most disruptive strike that we’ve seen in NHS history’, it was reported last night.

Some NHS Managers are also offering General Practitioners thousands of pounds per day – or £200 an hour – to cover for emergency department doctors striking from 7am on Tuesday. 

It is believed the strikes, which will involve up to 47,600 medics in pursuit of a 35 per cent pay rise, will ‘utterly overwhelm’ the health service. This is thought to be because workers who previously stepped in to cover shifts may have annual leave booked during the Easter holidays.

Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, urged the public to ‘think twice before you go’ to AE over fears staff levels will not be able to cope during the junior doctor strikes.

Some NHS Managers are offering General Practitioners thousands of pounds per day - or £200 an hour - to cover for striking doctors Some NHS Managers are offering General Practitioners thousands of pounds per day - or £200 an hour - to cover for striking doctors

Some NHS Managers are offering General Practitioners thousands of pounds per day – or £200 an hour – to cover for striking doctors 

NHS England National Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis who has warned that four days of strikes by junior doctors next week will cause 'unparalleled levels of disruption' NHS England National Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis who has warned that four days of strikes by junior doctors next week will cause 'unparalleled levels of disruption'

NHS England National Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis who has warned that four days of strikes by junior doctors next week will cause ‘unparalleled levels of disruption’ 

GP practices across the country told their patients to expect care to be disrupted, The Telegraph reported.  Granville House Medical Centre in Chorley told patients appointments will be managed on a daily basis, while Bacon Lane surgery in Edgware said urgent services would be prioritised.  The St Austell Healthcare centre in Cornwall began suspending appointments more than a week before the beginning of the strike, on March 31.  

And the strikes could prove lucrative for individual doctors, according to WhatsApp messages shared on Twitter.  Shifts were offered for £150 per hour during the day, rising to £200 at night.   Hospitals looking for cover included several major London hospitals, including Chelsea and Westminster, St Mary’s and West Middlesex.  

While emergency care will be ‘prioritised’ during the action, the public are being urged to use services ‘wisely’. 

‘There will be additional pressure on AE departments, for instance, because the staffing there will be lower,’ Sir Stephen told Times Radio. 

‘We are asking the public to think twice before you go. Of course, if it’s a severe illness, you should be going – that’s a very important message. 

‘But use other services where they’re available such as pharmacies. Our priority is to keep patients safe. But services, as I say, will be fragile and we will see a lot of disruption.

‘And, unfortunately, a lot of rescheduling of appointments and procedures.’ 

A three-day junior doctor strike last month resulted in 175,000 appointments and operations being cancelled, with up to 29,243 staff absent on each of the three days. 

More than a quarter of a million cancellations are expected this week, including cancer services in some instances. 

‘I think this is going to be the most disruptive strike that we’ve seen in NHS history,’ Sir Stephen added. 

‘Services will be fragile this week, because it’s a significant part of the workforce that are likely not to be there.’ 

The walkout begins at 7am tomorrow and will end at 7am on Saturday, April 15 – the most extensive action on record. 

More than a quarter of a million cancellations are expected this week, including cancer services in some instances (file image) More than a quarter of a million cancellations are expected this week, including cancer services in some instances (file image)

More than a quarter of a million cancellations are expected this week, including cancer services in some instances (file image) 

Yesterday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the action was ‘militant’ and timed to cause maximum disruption.

‘Unfortunately, the decision by British Medical Association junior doctors’ leaders to maintain an unrealistic position meant we were unable to make progress with talks,’ the minister wrote in The Sunday Telegraph. 

He added: ‘It seems they are intent on maintaining a militant stance rather than working with the Government and NHS management to meet the best interests of their members and of patients.’ 

Mr Barclay said significant disruption was ‘inevitable’ and he was concerned the walkout carried ‘considerable risk to patient safety’. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the BMA’s pay demand was ‘totally unreasonable and unaffordable’ and urged the union to come to the table with a ‘realistic approach’. 

He added: ‘We are working with NHS England to put in place contingency plans to protect patient safety. The NHS will prioritise resources to protect emergency treatment, critical care, neonatal care and trauma.’ 

In a statement yesterday, NHS England said that appointments and operations would only be cancelled ‘where unavoidable’ and patients would be offered alternative dates as soon as possible.