Bosses at Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and Lewisham and Greenwich say they are bracing themselves for an increase in patients as they grapple with a reduction in staff.
The British Medical Association has announced industrial action by junior doctors for 3 days from 7am on Wednesday 20 December until 7am on Saturday 23 December. This will be followed by a 6-day strike from 7am on Wednesday 3 January until 7am on Tuesday 9 January.
The latest wave of industrial action comes at a time when emergency departments at south east London hospitals are already extremely busy. NHS bosses say flu and other winter viruses are on the rise and there is added pressure due to Christmas party season.
In a joint statement, Professor Ian Abbs, Professor Clive Kay and Ben Travis, the chief executives of Guy's and St Thomas', King’s College Hospital, and Lewisham and Greenwich, said: “We are really disappointed that talks between the government and BMA have broken down. These strikes have been announced at one of the worst times of the year for us – before Christmas and just after Christmas.
“We are working hard to ensure patient safety is maintained and emergency services will be there for those that need them. But we would really appeal for people to use urgent and emergency services appropriately during the strike period to help our teams prioritise those patients who need care most urgently.
“For minor injuries, go to your nearest urgent treatment centre. Contact your GP or use NHS111 if you need medical help, and remember that your local pharmacy can provide a range of advice and help.
“As Christmas and New Year celebrations return to pre-pandemic levels, we would encourage people to take extra care to keep themselves safe and healthy and only use A&E in times of emergency. We will be here for those that need us but our services will be under stress and extremely busy.”
Lambeth and Southwark's London Assembly member Marina Ahmad this week responded to stats showing that during November only 51 per cent of A&E patients at St Thomas' were seen within four hours.
“These woeful waiting times at A&Es show the consequences of more than a decade of underfunding and neglect of the NHS," said Marina Ahmad AM.
"Things will only get worse as we are yet to feel the full impact of winter pressures - there is a real risk of the NHS reaching breaking point over winter.
“NHS staff are working as hard as they can but there is huge pressure on them. I want to thank all of our local doctors, nurses and NHS staff who do everything they can to support the health of our community.
“Ministers must start playing their part and properly fund our NHS so that patients never have to wait on a trolley in an A&E department.”