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Surrey’s NHS Services Are Braced for Expected Doctors’ Strike Disruption

Published on: 2 Jan, 2024
Updated on: 3 Jan, 2024

The Royal Surrey County Hospital

As Surrey braces itself for the longest period of strike action in NHS history, health leaders have joined forces to urge people to use services responsibly.

The industrial action is a national dispute between the government and trade unions about terms and conditions. It is the longest strike in NHS history. Junior doctors at the Royal Surrey County Hospital will take part in strike action between 7am on Wednesday, January 3, and 7am on Tuesday, January 9.

“It is vital that the public continue to use services wisely,” a spokesperson for the hospital trust said.

The healthcare system is still recovering from the last period of action, which took place before Christmas (December 20-23). Health leaders from Surrey’s NHS are warning of widespread disruption to routine services but are encouraging people to still come forward if they need urgent medical help during the strike period.

The spokesperson continued: “The safety of our patients and staff remains our top priority during the industrial action. We are working together across our Trust to make sure we have robust plans in place to ensure the safety and welfare of our patients and our colleagues during strike action.

“This means that some planned care – appointments, procedures and operations, for example – may be postponed to help us safely manage the impact of the strike and provide emergency care.”

Matt Jarratt, Chief Operating Officer at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our junior doctors have our full support, whether they choose to participate in industrial action or not. But we know this strike action will put more pressure on frontline services and our staff, who are already working incredibly hard.

“We are again asking members of the public for their support in using services responsibly and appropriately, thereby helping us keep our Emergency Departments and 999 for those who need them most.

“We are also asking people to be patient, particularly if services are busier and waits are longer than usual or if outpatient or planned procedures need to be rearranged, as our frontline teams prioritise critical services and work hard to make sure people get the care they need.”

The BBC has reported Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, to have said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that we’ve had to call this strike – no doctor ever wants to have to take industrial action.

“We would still, at this late hour, encourage the government to put forward a credible offer so that we can stop this strike and get back to doing what we really want to do – care for patients.”

Across Surrey, hospital, community and mental health trusts have joined forces with NHS Surrey Heartlands and the wider health and care partnership to warn of unprecedented disruption to NHS services this week.

The New Year is notoriously one of the NHS’s busiest periods as it faces a high demand for services, increased A&E attendances and admissions, and a rise in cases of flu, Covid 19 and norovirus, all now compounded by reduced staffing levels due to the industrial action. Surrey’s NHS say they are united in their plea as they urge Surrey residents to use services responsibly.

Dr Charlotte Canniff

Dr Charlotte Canniff, Joint Chief Medical Officer for Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership and a Surrey GP, said: “We have well-rehearsed plans in place to manage these periods of disruption, working together across health and care organisations.

“However, due to the timing, and with this being the longest period of planned industrial action the NHS has ever seen – taking place over six consecutive days – we expect this to be the most difficult period of action yet.

“During the last period of strike action, just before Christmas, at its peak on December 21 we saw 497 junior doctors from Surrey Heartlands taking part in planned action.

“With junior doctors making up around half of all doctors, a reduction of this scale has a significant impact on the services our frontline teams can continue to provide – so we do expect significant disruption to routine appointments and planned procedures as we prioritise urgent, emergency, trauma, maternity and critical care for those who need us most.”

The Royal Surrey has posted the following advice to patients on its website:


If you have an appointment at one of our hospitals, please attend unless you hear from us.

Please do not call to check if your appointment is going ahead. We will be in touch with you directly if we need to rearrange your appointment.

How to access urgent and emergency care during industrial action

Please be aware that our hospitals are likely to be busier than usual. You can help us manage this challenging period by seeking help from the most appropriate health services, and only attending A&E for serious accidents and emergencies.

If you are unwell, use NHS 111 online for 24/7 advice about the most appropriate care for your needs, or call 111 – they will provide medical advice and direct you to the best care for your needs.

Regardless of the strike action, it is important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward as normal, especially in emergencies and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.

If you have a life-threatening emergency, our Emergency Department (A&E) remains open 24 hours a day.

We are always here for those who need care.

Minor Injuries Unit

The Minor Injuries Unit in Haslemere is open seven days a week, 8am-5pm, including during periods of industrial action.

You do not need an appointment and can receive treatment for:

  • wounds – cuts, bruises and grazes
  • minor burns
  • suspected broken bones, strains, and sprains
  • minor eye injuries
  • minor head injuries (with no loss of consciousness)
  • removal of foreign bodies from ears, eyes or nose or from under the skin (splinters)
  • bites and stings

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