Public urged to use NHS 111 ahead of Christmas and New Year doctor strikes

People across Cheshire and Merseyside are being urged to use NHS 111 for all non-emergency healthcare needs ahead of industrial action by junior doctors both ahead of Christmas and early in the New Year.

Unions have announced a 72-hour walkout of junior doctors from 7am on Wednesday, December 20th to 7am on Saturday, December 23rd – to be quickly followed by six days of further strike action from 7am on Wednesday, January 3rd to 7am on Tuesday, January 9th.

Coming at the busiest time for the health service, significant service disruption is expected.

NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Deputy Medical Director, Dr Fiona Lemmens, is urging people to use NHS 111 for all non-emergency healthcare needs and to support the safe and timely discharge of loved ones who are ready to leave hospital.

"Health and care services across Cheshire and Merseyside are already under winter pressure," she said. "The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to mitigate risks to patient safety and manage any disruption, including industrial action, but inevitably a walkout on this scale – and at this time of year – will lead to significant service disruption.

"You should still call 999 or go to A&E in an emergency when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. But if you need urgent medical help and you're not sure where to go, use NHS 111 online to get assessed and directed to the right place for you.

"Our local hospitals are working hard to ensure all patients who are fit to return home for Christmas can do so safely. If you have a loved one who is ready to be discharged from hospital, you can assist by helping to get them home as soon as practically possible."

Almost half of all hospital doctors are junior doctors. You will see junior doctors working in almost every part of a busy hospital, including A&E where they might diagnose you or put you under anaesthetic, write prescriptions, support the process of admission and discharge, maintain the flow of patients through the hospital and ensure beds are available for those who need them the most.

The NHS will continue to deliver planned care where possible, especially for patients in greatest clinical need, and we would urge the public to attend any planned appointments unless contacted directly by the NHS to reschedule.

Local NHS services will be using their websites and social media channels to provide up-to-date information to the public about local service disruption – so please check before you travel.

The NHS 111 service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call, go online or use the NHS App to find out:

  • Where to get help for your symptoms
  • How to find general health information and advice
  • Where to get an emergency supply of your prescribed medicine
  • How to get a repeat prescription
  • How to get an emergency dental appointment

If needed, NHS 111 can also arrange a call back from a nurse, doctor or paramedic or an appointment at the most appropriate local service including local pharmacies, urgent treatment centres, GP practices or A&E.

More information about when to call 999 and when to go to A&E is available via the national NHS website.