Ops and appointments are cancelled ahead of strikes

Junior doctors and supporters join the picket line on Wigan Lane, Wigan, in their second strike, part of a 24-hour walk out in a dispute about changes to contracts
Junior doctors and supporters join the picket line on Wigan Lane, Wigan, in their second strike, part of a 24-hour walk out in a dispute about changes to contracts

Operations and appointments have been cancelled ahead of next week’s latest walkout by junior doctors.

But Wigan health chiefs are at pains to stress patient care will not be compromised in any way as plans are drawn up for consultants and senior doctors to take over the workload.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said maternity units, intensive care units and emergency departments will be at “most risk” when the medics fully withdraw their labour between the hours of 8am and 5pm on April 26 and 27. In previous strikes junior doctors provided emergency care cover but the industrial action planned for next week will see them stage a full walk-out - the first in the history of the NHS.

Mr Hunt said he hoped the British Medical Association (BMA) would work with NHS England to fill rota gaps despite the strike.

A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, (WWL) said: “We have tried and tested plans to deal with a range of disruptions including industrial action and have already developed strong contingency plans. We are also working closely with our local BMA representatives and our senior doctors to ensure that patient safety, which is everyone’s key priority, is not compromised.

“As we will need to change the normal working activities of some of our consultants and other senior doctors to deliver essential ward based services during the periods of industrial action, a proportion of non-urgent elective work will be cancelled to ensure that our inpatient and emergency services can be delivered safely.

“Some outpatient appointments have also had to be cancelled and rearranged. Any affected patients will be advised if there are changes to their scheduled appointments via letter.”

Hospital bosses are also urging that for the duration of the dispute, members of the public only visit Accident and Emergency if they have been involved in an accident or if it is a life-threatening emergency.

The spokesman added: “Patients in need of urgent and emergency care will continue to receive the treatment they need, when they need it.

However, due to increased pressures over this period, those in less urgent need of care may experience longer waiting times than normal. In all cases priority will be given to those patients with the most pressing health needs.”

A BMA spokeswoman said: “Anyone who needs emergency care will get it, the only difference is that it will be provided by senior doctors rather than junior doctors.”