NHS tells patients to continue to access emergency care during industrial action 


People should continue to come forward for the care they need during industrial action. 

Charlotte McArdle, NHS England Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, said it is “vital” patients come forward for emergency care during strikes.

The call follows messaging issued by the NHS last week across NHS websites and social media telling patients that those needing urgent medical care should continue to come forward, especially when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.

The NHS will contact anyone whose appointment has to be rescheduled due to strikes, with those not contacted advised to attend as planned. 

Patients should call 999 if it is a medical or mental health emergency, as ambulances will be prioritising situations with an immediate risk to life.

In non-life threatening situations, alternative support will be available through NHS 111 online or through the NHS 111 phone line.

General Practice, community pharmacies, and dentistry are not impacted by the action.

The NHS has been preparing extensively for industrial action and for winter, with plans already in place to manage additional demand including 24/7 control centres, additional bed capacity, more mental health support for ambulance services and more community falls services.

Forty-four out of 219 NHS trusts in England, including Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, are expected to be affected on Thursday 15 December. 

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director, said: “NHS teams have worked hard to minimise disruption from strikes due to take place this month.

“While patients may see different types of staff striking on different days, or their local NHS services impacted by strikes on some days but not others, the things patients should do to access NHS care remain the same.

“People must call 999 in any life-threatening emergency during strikes as well as attending pre-booked appointments as planned unless they have been contacted by their local NHS for it to be rearranged.”