Health bosses make appeal to Harlow residents as Easter and strike action loom

Health / Mon 3rd Apr 2023 at 07:23am

NHS staff across Hertfordshire and west Essex are appealing for the public’s support as they prepare for the Easter bank holiday weekend, followed by a four-day junior doctors’ strike which will affect local services.

Significant disruption is expected, particularly during the strike period (beginning 7am on Tuesday 11 April and ending at 7am on Saturday 15 April) which comes straight after a bank holiday weekend, when health services will be working at full stretch to meet demand.  

The public are reminded that they should only attend accident and emergency departments at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Lister Hospital in Stevenage and Watford General Hospital if they need treatment for a very serious illness or injury. If you have a pre-booked appointment at hospital or a clinic, please attend as scheduled, unless you have been contacted and your appointment has been postponed.

Dr Jane Halpin, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: “The junior doctors’ strike, which starts immediately after the Easter bank holiday weekend, will present many challenges to patients, our hospitals, and some of our GP practices too.  With only around one third of all doctors expected to be working, hospitals will not be able to run as normal and services will be working under immense pressure over several days.

“Even with the careful planning that is taking place, both routine and emergency care are likely to be significantly affected. In order to prioritise life-saving emergency treatment for people who need it, hospitals will postpone some non-urgent operations, treatments and routine appointments. Where this is the case, patients will be contacted directly. This is really unfortunate for those whose treatment is delayed, but with the majority of doctors not working, remaining staff must cover the essential care patients need. 

“During the last strike action earlier this month, many people came to A&E with symptoms that should have been seen and treated elsewhere.  A&E is always just for serious injuries and life-threatening emergencies only, so in a genuine medical emergency always call 999. There are 

many sources of advice about when to call 999, including on the NHS website. If you come to A&E with a minor condition or illness during the strike, you are likely to face a very long wait. If you call 999 for an ambulance when you don’t need one, you could endanger the life of another person in desperate need of emergency care. NHS 111 is there 24 hours a day if you or a family member are unwell and need urgent medical help or advice on where to go. We have more staff in the NHS 111 service to cover this challenging week so please use 111 online or by phone if you cannot manage symptoms yourself at home.  

“Think carefully before you use NHS services over the bank holiday and following week. There are some pharmacies open over the Easter weekend and all will be operating as normal after bank holiday Monday. GP practices will open their doors again on Tuesday morning. Be patient with practice teams as they try get through large volumes of calls. Some GP practices will also be without junior doctors during the industrial action. I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and support at this challenging time.” 

Top tips for Hertfordshire and west Essex residents

  • If you need urgent health help, use NHS 111 online (www.111.nhs.uk) or call 111. Your symptoms will be assessed, and you will be provided with healthcare advice or an appointment to see a doctor or nurse if this is needed. NHS 111 can also send an ambulance and can book an appointment for you in some services like urgent treatment centres.
  • If you are in a mental health crisis, call NHS 111 and get straight through to mental health help by selecting option 2. 
  • If you take regular medication, put in your request for a repeat prescription now, so that you have enough to last you through the four-day bank holiday weekend, when GP surgeries are closed.
  • If you are travelling at Easter, remember to take your medication with you and remind family or friends visiting you to do the same.
  • Feeling a bit under the weather? The NHS website has lots of advice to help you to look after yourself when you have minor symptoms. There is also information about what is a serious medical emergency: When to call 999 – NHS (www.nhs.uk) 
  • Pick up a few medicines while you’re shopping so that you can look after very minor illnesses or injuries yourself.  You can buy basic essentials like paracetamol, ibuprofen, plasters, antiseptic cream, allergy medicine and indigestion remedies from pharmacies and supermarkets for less than the cost of a prescription. Remember, cheaper non-branded versions of medicines work just as well as branded products.
  • You can find a list of pharmacies open on Good Friday and Easter Monday by visiting www.nhs.uk and using the ‘Find a Pharmacy’ tool.
  • Your GP practice will open on Tuesday 11 April at 8am. Phone lines are likely to be even busier than normal after the long weekend, so please be patient as practice staff try to help as many people as they can. If you have a computer or smartphone, you can use your GP practice’s e-consultation service, which directs your query quickly to the right member of practice staff, and helps free up the telephone lines for those who aren’t online. 
  • Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments at our hospitals only have the capacity to treat people who have serious or life-threatening conditions. If you use emergency services with a minor issue you are risking the lives of others and may not get the treatment for your symptoms as quickly as you will elsewhere.       
  • Do not visit anyone in a hospital or care home if you have recently had diarrhoea or vomiting. Stomach bugs are easily spread, make already ill people very seriously unwell, and can lead to whole hospital wards being closed. Please wait 48 hours after your last bout of sickness or diarrhoea before visiting anyone who is vulnerable.   
  • Information on these services and self-help advice can be found at: https://hertsandwestessexics.org.uk/help-us-help  You can also get information on local health services by following local NHS organisations on social media:
  • Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB @HWEICB
  • West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust @westhertsnhs
  • Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust @NHSHarlow
  • East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust @enherts 
  • Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust @hctnhs
  • Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust @hpft_nhs
  • Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust @eputnhs
  • HUC (the organisation which runs NHS 111) @HUCHealthcare
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1 Comment for Health bosses make appeal to Harlow residents as Easter and strike action loom:

David Forman
2023-04-04 05:31:47

I say to everyone "Think carefully before putting a cross next to the name of a Tory at the next general election." Maybe then we would get a government prepared to invest in the NHS and pay its workers a decent wage. A round of applause does not pay the bills.

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