NHS braces for disruption to patients caused by rail strike
The NHS “remains open”, leading medics have said as the health service prepares for disruption caused by rail strikes.
Patients have been urged to plan ahead for appointments.
And hospitals have made arrangements to ensure staff will be on site, including setting up park-and-ride services and taxi-sharing facilities.
The strikes could have a particular impact on hospitals in London, many of which have limited parking capacity for those considering driving to appointments as an alternative.
While buses are still operating it is expected these will be busier than usual due to the strikes.
Rail worker strikes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are set to cause travel disruption across the country.
Meanwhile strike action will also disrupt the London Underground on Tuesday.
Many trusts have urged patients to get in touch if they cannot attend their appointment due to strikes.
The Royal Free said in a statement: “Our hospitals will be open as normal but please do let us know in advance if you are unable to attend your appointment.”
King’s College Hospital said: “We recognise that some patients and visitors are likely to experience difficulty accessing our hospital sites on the strike days, but also on the days in-between.
“We would like to reassure patients and visitors that hospital services will continue as normal during this period.”
Meanwhile patients were warned of potential delays if they were late for appointments due to travel disruption.
Barts Health, one of the biggest trusts in London, said in a statement: “Our staff will be flexible with appointment timings, allowing for the fact that patients may be delayed on route.
“Please note that you may then experience a wait if you do arrive later than your specified appointment time. If you are delayed on your way to your appointment, please contact the team to let them know.”
Hospitals also warned of “busier than usual” car parks, particularly trusts based in outer London.
As well as affecting patient appointments, the strikes may also hamper NHS staff commutes.
Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London reminded patients that staff “will have the same difficulties in travelling in to offer appointments as you will”.
Some trusts have put extra measures in place to ensure staff cover during the travel disruption.
“Staff will be coming in, as usual, to ensure those who need us get the care they need. The trust has put a number of measures in place to ensure these staff are unaffected,” Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust said in a statement.
The Trust told PA it had set up a temporary park-and-ride service for staff working at Epsom hospital and it has also expanded its shuttle bus service.
Staff are also being encouraged to cycle, walk or car share while those who can work from home are being asked to do so.
Central and North West London NHS Trust, which provides a range of services including mental health care and sexual health services, added: “Our wards will be fully staffed (we have plans to make sure staff can get to work).”
On Friday, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “With rail strikes expected across the country next week, I am urging those who have appointments booked in to plan ahead and look at alternative options for getting to their GP practice or hospital if needed.
“The NHS sees millions of people every week for urgent and routine care and it is vital that people access the care they need despite disruptions – the NHS remains open, so please do continue to come forward.”
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