Hospitals in the West are rapidly drawing up contingency plans for a 5-day junior doctors' strike announced last night.
It will last from 8am to 5pm from the 12th to the 16th of September - making it the longest walk-out in NHS history.
Thousands of planned operations and outpatient appointments in the West are likely to be cancelled. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called the strike action 'devastating'.
None of the region's major hospitals had arrangements in place when we contacted them this morning, but several are issuing general advice to the public:
GLOUCESTER and CHELTENHAM:
Patients with operations or appointments should attend as normal unless they hear directly from the hospitals. Only those with life-threatening or serious conditions should attend A&E.
Staff will contact you if your operation/appointment has to be cancelled. The hospital says it will avoid cancelling urgent operations (e.g. cancer-related ones) if it possibly can. It reiterates that its A&E department is for genuine emergencies only.
TAUNTON and SOMERSET:
At Musgrove Park Hospital senior clinicians, nursing staff and operation leads worked together to put robust plans in place to ensure that the hospital remains completely safe during the past strikes and this time will be no different.
We have again started planning for these latest strike days and are confident that anyone coming to the hospital during this period will get the high quality, safe care they can expect from us.
Unfortunately we know it will mean that we will have to postpone some planned surgery and appointments to ensure that we are able to continue to deliver high quality care to those people who need us in an emergency. However,we do not yet know the extent of that yet.
Where this has been necessary we have been contacting those affected directly as soon as possible and will rearrange appointments as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes, however, patient safety is always our utmost priority.
UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS BRISTOL:
We are working closely with all medical staff to understand the likely impact of strike action on our services and will put detailed contingency plans in place.
We will continue to provide safe emergency services throughout the period but it is inevitable that non-urgent outpatient appointments and routine operations will be cancelled, and we apologise in advance for the impact this will have on our patients.
We will contact patients directly if their care is going to be affected and will work hard to ensure they are seen again as soon as possible.
SOUTHMEAD HOSPITAL BRISTOL:
We will be carrying out detailed planning to prepare for the action and our teams will work to minimise disruption to our patients. At this point it is too early to say what arrangements will be made but we will keep patients updated when we have further information.
We are working with our junior doctors and senior clinical staff in advance of the next scheduled industrial action so that we can put plans in place to minimise the impact upon patient care. We do,however, expect it will be necessary to postpone some outpatient, theatre, and clinic appointments.
We will be in direct contact with those patients whose appointments are to be affected. Those who are not contacted should attend the hospital as planned.
We would like to reassure the public that patient safety is our priority and will not be compromised.
We will keep this page updated as extra details come in.