June 13, 2024
Health

Details of ‘widespread’ disruption across Northern Ireland health trusts as junior doctors strike


Junior doctors in Northern Ireland will begin a 48-hour strike today as they call for better pay. The British Medical Association has said that this will be the first of two strikes and will see Junior Doctors withdraw their labour from hospitals and GP surgeries.

They say they have had no choice but to escalate industrial action. The Department of Health has warned patients of widespread disruption due to the strike action which will last from 7am on Wednesday, May 22 to 7am on Friday, May 24. This includes the closure of Lagan Valley Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre in Lisburn




Dr Fiona Griffin, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland junior doctors committee, said: “We did not want to have to escalate industrial action, but our key ask around pay, including a commitment to work towards full pay restoration, was rejected by the Health Minister. This left us with no choice but to escalate our action.

Read more: Warning of ‘widespread disruption’ to health services next week as NI junior doctors stage 48-hour strike

Read more: Junior doctors in Northern Ireland to stage 48-hour walk outs after pay talks break down

“The health service cannot function without junior doctors. Yet more and more of us are leaving or contemplating leaving the health service to work elsewhere for better pay and working conditions, and where the complex and skilled work we undertake is properly rewarded.

“These are doctors with up to 15 years experience and the fact that this is being allowed to happen amidst a waiting list crisis that is the worst in the UK is unfathomable and unforgivable. We must make stand now on behalf of the workforce and our patients, before it is too late.”

The BMA has met with Health Minister Robin Swann and is asking him to immediately address their pay concerns.

Dr Griffin continued: ““We have now met with the Minister, but there was absolutely no movement from him in terms of our asks around pay. Our mandate is for better pay for junior doctors but it is clear that improving pay for junior doctors is not a priority. Contract reform while welcome is not addressing the core issue. Paying us what the DDRB recommended last year is the minimum that they can do, and it is also lamentable that it has not yet been paid, a full year after the recommendation was made.

“Other nations are discussing pay and a commitment to full pay restoration, so there is a willingness elsewhere to address this.

“This strike and the next one in June do not need to happen. It can be called off today if a credible offer was put forward that included steps towards full pay restoration.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, a Belfast Trust spokesperson warned of “significant disruption” to services, today and tomorrow.

“Junior doctors across Northern Ireland are taking part in industrial action from 7am Wednesday 22 May – 7am Friday 24 May 2024,” they said.

“There will be significant disruption to our services and any patients affected by the industrial action will be contacted directly and an alternative date will be arranged in due course. You should attend your scheduled appointment unless you have been directly contacted to advise it will be rescheduled.”

Statement from Belfast Trust

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust has said that due to the stike action it will have to close Lagan Valley Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre in Lisburn on Wednesday, May 22 and Thursday, May 23. The hospital will reopen again from 8am on Friday, May 24.

It also said that 581 outpatient appointments, 45 endoscopy procedures, 28 day case procedures and 45 surgeries have been postponed as a result of the strike. A spokesperson said: “Regrettably, due to the Junior Doctors’ strike, the Urgent Care Centre at the Lagan Valley Hospital will close tomorrow Wednesday 22nd May and Thursday 23rd May.

“This is unavoidable in order to maintain patient safety, which is always the Trust’s priority. If you need urgent or emergency care, please go to the Ulster Hospital’s Emergency Department. The Urgent Care Centre will re-open as normal, on Friday 24th May at 8am.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this temporary closure will cause. In an emergency always phone 999.”

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has said that 349 outpatient appointments have been rescheduled and 49 surgeries due to the industrial action.

A spokesperson said: “We are expecting significant disruption to our services as a result of the planned industrial action by junior doctors from 7am on Wednesday 22 May – 7am on Friday 24 May 2024.

“Our focus will be on maintaining safe services for acutely unwell patients within our inpatient facilities and protecting urgent and emergency care. Our message to patients and service users is that they should attend all scheduled appointments unless contacted by the Trust to advise otherwise.

“We would also encourage people to use our Phone First service, where appropriate, before travelling to our Emergency Departments.

“The Phone First triage service is available Monday – Friday, 8am-6pm, on 0300 123 1 123. In an emergency, always call 999. Thank you for your continued support.”

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has asked all patients to attend appointments as normal unless they have been contacted by the Trust to advise otherwise.

A spokesperson said: “We are expecting significant disruption as a result of planned industrial action by junior doctors from 7.00am on Wednesday 22 May until 7.00am on Friday 24 May. Our focus will be maintaining safe services for our acutely unwell patients within our hospitals and inpatient facilities.

“Our message to patients and service users is that they should attend all scheduled appointments unless contacted by the Trust to advise otherwise.

“If you require urgent medical or mental health help during the duration of the strike action, then you should attend the Emergency Department or call 999. Please be aware that it may be busier and you may have to wait longer. Patients will be triaged and seen in order of clinical priority.

“To help us to cope with the expected impacts of the industrial action we strongly encourage those with an urgent or minor matter, which is not life-threatening, to use the Phone First service. Please call 0300 020 6000 (8.00am to midnight). Alternatively, please consider other healthcare options, such as your GP, GP out-of-hours or our Urgent Care and Treatment Centre.”

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has said that 275 oupatients appointments have been postponed and 33 surgeries.

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A spokesperson said: “Whilst we are working hard to prepare and maintain safe services where we can, we expect major disruption from 7am on Wednesday 22 May and to 7am on Friday 24 May and the subsequent days, as we seek to recover from the impact of planned industrial action by Junior Doctors.

“Our message to patients and service users is that you should attend your appointment unless you are contacted by the Trust to advise otherwise.

“Only come to our Emergency Departments if you have serious symptoms that need hospital care and phone 999 if the patient is acutely unwell. Please be aware that it may be busier and you will have to wait longer. Patients will be seen in order of clinical priority.

“There are also significant numbers of patients in beds in our wards who are medically fit for discharge. We are asking for public support to help ensure that the sickest patients get the care they need. It is essential that patients leave hospital when they are discharged by the doctor and that families take their loved one home as soon as they are medically fit.

“Our staff will be working under enormous pressure so please understand and be kind to them.”

It continued: “Red flag patients have been re-scheduled to the next available appointment slots. Any appointments that have been cancelled have or will be rescheduled as soon as feasible. The safety of our patients and service users remains our priority.

“We appeal for public support in ensuring that we are able to care for those who need us most. Thank you for your continued help and understanding.”

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