Strike action to close Cheltenham's A&E until 2024

Cheltenham's A&E won't be operating fully until the New Year due to junior doctor strikes. Credit: PA

Cheltenham's accident and emergency department has closed until the New Year, as junior doctors strike over Christmas.

NHS Gloucestershire has said plans are in place to ensure those in need can continue to access support during the busiest period of the year, but the strike action will bring "substantial challenges."

Junior doctors will begin a four-day strike on Wednesday 20 December which will last until Saturday 23 December.

They will walk out again after Christmas for six days, from Wednesday 3 January until Tuesday 9 January.

It is part of an ongoing dispute over pay.

Cheltenham's A&E also closed temporarily in August due to strike action. Credit: PA

Cheltenham's accident and emergency department has closed temporarily.

On Saturday 23 December, it will become a Minor Injury and Illness Unit service only and will also be closed overnight.

It will then close again fully in the New Year from 8pm on Monday 1 January until 8am on Tuesday 9 January.

Emergency care services will be centralised at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital throughout the closure.

However, the public is being advised to only attend A&E if their condition is life-threatening or very serious.

NHS Gloucestershire is urging the public to call NHS 111 before attending A&E as hospital services will be facing "substantial challenges" during the busiest time of the year.

Chief Medical Officer at NHS Gloucestershire, Dr Ananthakrishnan Raghuram said: “The latest round of strikes at the busiest time of the year will bring substantial challenges to thelocal NHS, particularly hospital services, and we are sorry that many patients will experience disruption to services.

"This is a very challenging environment and decisions on temporary service change have not been taken lightly. Gloucestershire health and care partners are working closely together to ensure those in greatest need continue to have access to high-quality care and support."

He added: "We cannot emphasise enough how important it will be to keep A&E at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital clear for life-threatening conditions and serious injuries."

Patients who have a planned hospital operation or procedure during the strike period should attend as usual unless they hear otherwise.

But NHS Gloucestershire has warned that many appointments will need to be rearranged to ensure there are safe staffing levels in emergency care.

Gloucestershire's Community Hospital Minor Injury and Illness Units will be open daily throughout the closure.

Dr Raghuram added that advice will also be available on the local NHS' social media channels.