King’s Lynn hospital bosses warn of disruption as junior doctors strike looms
Bosses of Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital have warned that some services are likely to be disrupted if a planned strike by junior doctors goes ahead next week.
A 24-hour walkout has been planned for Tuesday after talks between the British Medical Association and NHS employers broke down earlier this week.
And two further strikes have been planned for late January and early February, as part of an ongoing dispute over proposed contract reforms.
Around 150 junior doctors currently work at the QEH and officials say plans are in place to minimise disruption from the originally scheduled strike dates last month.
Chief executive Dorothy Hosein said: “As always our primary commitment is to the welfare of patients and the priority during our contingency planning has been and will continue to be their safety and care.
“We are currently revisiting the plans we developed in November in preparation for the proposed December strike action.
“We are doing our best to ensure the hospital operates as close to normal as possible during next week’s strike. However, there will be a number of cancellations.”
Tuesday’s strike is scheduled at 8am and junior doctors will only provide emergency care from then until 8am on Wednesday.
A 48-hour stoppage, in which emergency care will again be provided, is then scheduled to begin at 8am on Tuesday, January 26.
And a full nine-hour stoppage, in which junior doctors will not work at all, is planned for Wednesday, February 10.
The dispute relates to proposed reforms to junior doctors’ contracts, which ministers say are needed to create more seven-day services.
The government has insisted that progress was being made in negotiations with the BMA which followed the cancellation of the December strike dates and urged the union to resume talks.
But the BMA says the plans could harm care because of fewer safeguards against excessive working hours.
They have warned that further concessions will be needed in order for the strikes to be called off.
And Darren Barber, chairman of the QEH’s joint staff-side consultative committee, said he was confident the industrial action would go ahead.
He said: “They’ve tried to negotiate. This is the last resort. They don’t want to strike, but they feel they have no option.”
The strikes have also been called at a time when the hospital is battling to cope with the demands placed on its services by winter pressures.
All three of Norfolk’s main hospitals – the QEH, the Norfolk and Norwich and the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston – have been on black alert this week because of the level of need.
David Stonehouse, the QEH’s deputy chief executive, said: “We are experiencing significant spikes in demand for emergency services and this has been compounded by an increase in the general acuity of patients in the hospital meaning that we are fully utilising our escalation capacity.
“Our priority is patient care and safety and working with our partners we have developed comprehensive plans to ensure this is maintained at all times.”