Hospital cancellations likely as major strike action kicks off

Staff at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital are prioritising life-saving care over the coming days amid major industry strikes – with many appointments in danger of being cancelled.

Senior hospital consultants began a two-day walk-out yesterday at 7am, and remain absent today. They have now been joined by junior doctors, who began striking at 7am this morning and will not return until Saturday.

This comes after the British Medical Association announced the upheaval, arguing that junior doctors are suffering from a “crippling cost-of-living crisis, burnout and well below inflation pay rises”.

Patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn could face cancellations amid strike action
Patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn could face cancellations amid strike action

Bosses at Lynn’s hospital are therefore prioritising maintaining emergency and life-preserving care during this period, and will continue to see and treat patients with the “greatest clinical need”.

This could mean some patients facing delays in their appointments, with a QEH spokesperson saying: “If you are contacted by a member of our team to cancel your appointment, we urge people to be kind and respectful towards our staff making these calls, and please know that they are working hard to reschedule these as quickly as possible.

“We understand how frustrating and distressing this will be for patients, and we are sorry that people will have appointments rearranged. Please do attend appointments unless you are informed otherwise.”

Hospital consultants are the NHS’s most senior clinicians, whose roles cannot be covered by other staff.

Christmas Day levels of care will still be on offer – meaning emergency departments will still be open and staffed with consultants, but disruption and longer waits should be expected.

In line with other hospitals in the region, there will be a reduction in the number of routine operations, planned procedures and outpatient appointments at the QEH during the next few days. This will allow remaining clinicians to focus on providing emergency and inpatient care.

In the meantime, QEH staff have urged residents to only attend the emergency department when absolutely necessary to ensure that care is available to patients experiencing genuine emergencies.

These include chest pain, breathing difficulties, signs of a stroke and bleeding that will not stop.

Staff say the best way to get urgent medical help is to visit or phone 111 for anything that feels urgent, either physically or mentally, or if people are unsure what to do.

People in life-threatening emergencies have been told to call 999 or go to their nearest emergency department.

“If you have a medical appointment and have not been contacted by a staff member, please continue to attend your appointment as usual,” the QEH spokesperson added.

“If you are unable to make your NHS appointment, please remember to contact the number on your appointment letter so that it can be reallocated to another patient. Please also cancel any booked transport.

“They are also an important part of the teams for planned inpatient appointments, as well as outpatient clinics. The breadth and depth of what they do across the NHS means their absence creates further challenges.”