Hospital bosses are drawing up plans to cope with industrial action by junior doctors which is due to begin later this month.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has confirmed it is taking action in a row over pay and conditions – with a 24-hour strike from 8am on Tuesday, January 12, a 48-hour stoppage from 8am on Tuesday ,January 26, and a full withdrawal of labour from 8am to 5pm on Wednesday, February 10.
During the action, junior doctors will provide emergency care only.
Ian Frame, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s executive director, personnel and development, said: “Our Trust, along with NHS organisations throughout the country, already has robust plans in place to deal with a range of potential disruptions, including industrial action, in a way that protects the safety and quality of services.
“We want to reassure patients and the general public that everything will be done to minimise disruption to services, whilst ensuring that patient safety is not compromised in any way.
“It is likely that some services will come under specific pressure and, in these circumstances, we would appeal for understanding as we prioritise patients with the most pressing health needs.
“Some clinics and operating theatre lists have been cancelled but our advice to patients and their families and carers is that, otherwise, it is ‘business as usual’ and, unless they hear from us, they should expect their appointments and treatment to go ahead.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government thought it was “making very good progress” in talks and he was disappointed the BMA had called strikes, but added that “the door is open”.
BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said it was still possible that action could be called off but insisted the Government would have to go “further” than it had so far.