Northampton General Hospital A&E ‘prepared for all-out strike’

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NGH will be able to handle all life-threatening and urgent cases even if an all-out doctors’ strike goes ahead next month, the hospital has said.

This week’s industrial action by junior doctors –which means all those below consultant level – saw union members cover only emergency care during a 24-hour period.

Two more strikes are planned – a similar 48-hour one on Tuesday, January 26, and an ‘all -out’ strike on Wednesday, February 10 – if agreement cannot be reached between the Government and unions over a proposed new contract.

But Deborah Needham, NGH’s deputy chief executive, said staff would be ready.

She said: “We’ll have to make sure every consultant not on annual leave is in and working.

“The areas where we had routine working on Tuesday were the emergency areas.

“We’ll have to move more consultants into those areas.

“It’s a call-to-arms, really, but I don’t for a moment think any member of staff will not want to help. If they didn’t then, absolutely, we’d have to make it safe.”

Mrs Needham described the fact some people with non-urgent conditions came to A&E on Tuesday despite the strike as “disappointing” and urged people to think carefully about perhaps seeing their GP or pharmacist instead.

Tuesday saw 350 outpatient appointments postponed along with 43 operations. These will be rescheduled, perhaps using extra clinics, and patients should start hearing about new dates next week.

Seventy-one junior doctors chose to work at some point during the strike, spread between A&E and other departments.

They were assisted by consultants working as lower grades for the day, as well as some GPs.

Ministers say the new contract will allow a better service at weekends, but junior doctors are worried about weaker safeguards for excessive hours, leading to tired doctors making poor decisions.

However, Mrs Needham said NGH was already moving towards seven-day working – for all staff – by spreading the same number of hours worked over the whole week.

She said: “If staff do have to increase their hours, we’ll be monitoring the effects and making sure they have support, making sure they have time out. Their wellbeing is very important.”