NHS leaders in Gloucestershire have today provided advice to the public ahead of two days of industrial action this week.
Whilst the NHS locally is making plans to minimise disruption as far as possible, they have said that their highest priority must be to care for those in most immediate and urgent need.
Industrial action is planned by the Royal College of Nursing tomorrow (Tuesday 20 December) and Trade Unions representing ambulance service workers on Wednesday (21 December).
On Wednesday, life threatening calls and other very serious conditions that may require urgent assessment will continue to be responded to, but other calls will have to be prioritised accordingly with longer waits expected.
Ahead of industrial action this week, local people are strongly urged to keep 999 and A&E clear for life-threatening conditions and very serious injuries.
Patients with life-threatening conditions and serious injuries will continue to be seen at the two Emergency Departments (A&E) in the county and other critical care and cancer services will be running on these days.
The intention is to keep as many Community Minor Injury and Illness Units open as possible, but the level of coverage is subject to safe staffing levels on each day. The public are advised to use the local MIIU phone line – 0300 421 7777 or 111 to check availability and to book appointments at the most suitable Unit to meet their needs. Updates will be available at: www.ghc.nhs.uk and through social media and local media.
Many parts of the NHS – hospitals, community services and GP practices – are likely to feel the impact of industrial action – either directly or indirectly.
If people have an urgent care need, but are not sure which service to use, they can visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111 for advice. The 111 phone service can book people into local NHS services if required, but is likely to see an increase in calls.
The local asapglos.nhs.uk website and ASAP Glos NHS app also provide step by step care advice and information on the right service to use. This includes information on community pharmacies, which are a great first port of call for minor health issues and can advise on whether another NHS service is needed.
Patients who have a planned hospital operation, outpatient clinic or procedure on Tuesday and Wednesday this week should attend as usual unless they hear from their NHS Trust to advise otherwise.
Community physical health and mental health services will be prioritised to ensure patients most in need are supported.
This will include the continued provision of mental health crisis, palliative and end of life care and any time sensitive, complex community care for vulnerable adults and children.
Where care arrangements are being changed, patients will receive official notification.
There will be no disruption to patient visiting arrangements on either of these days. However, the local NHS Trusts are asking relatives and carers to do everything they can to work with their staff to get their loved ones home from hospital as quickly and as safely as possible, with additional support if necessary, from local NHS community services or adult social care teams.
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is working to free up as much bed capacity as possible and ensure the best possible arrangements are in place to receive ambulances and patients on 21 December. This is however against the backdrop of a rise in seasonal illness and sick patients who need specialist care.
Chief Medical Officer at NHS Gloucestershire, Dr Andy Seymour said:
“One Gloucestershire health and care partners are working closely together to minimise disruption as far as possible and ensure those in greatest need continue to have access to high quality care and support during the days of industrial action.
However, we need to be clear that these days are going to be incredibly challenging for those providing care and we are going to need the public’s support as well.
If it’s not life threatening, we are urging people to think very carefully about their healthcare options and get advice when needed from NHS 111 and ASAP Glos NHS. Advice will also be available through local NHS social media channels.”
Further public information about the Industrial Action, including FAQs, has been published by NHS England and can be found here.