Hundreds of appointments and operations have been cancelled in South Yorkshire’s hospitals as the first all-out strike by junior doctors in the history of the NHS starts.
The national two-day walkout was due to start at 8am today in an ongoing dispute with the Government over new work contracts.
Local hospitals have rescheduled operations and appointments, with patients being asked to avoid visiting Accident and Emergency departments if possible.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital has cancelled 248 appointments for the two days.
Thousands of junior doctors are due to withdraw full labour, including emergency care, from 8am to 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday.
NHS England says 112,856 outpatient appointments and 12,711 planned operations have been cancelled and will need to be rearranged.
Across the country, consultants who would normally be staffing clinics and planned operations will be moving to other areas of hospitals to provide cover.
A key issue in the dispute is weekend pay. The new, imposed contract cuts the pay offered to doctors at weekends but increases basic pay.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals have reduced the number of non-urgent planned operations and appointments.
Michael Harper, chief operating officer at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Since this industrial action was announced we have been working closely with junior doctors and other colleagues to plan ahead and develop robust plans.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience patients may experience, however our priority has to be to continue delivering high quality, safe care to our patients already in hospital and those attending as emergencies.”
Ben Gummer, minister for care quality at the Department of Health, said the strike action was ‘totally disproportionate’.
He said: “This new contract is fairer for junior doctors, safer for patients and will help to create a fully seven-day NHS.”
Hundreds of consultants have written to striking junior doctors in Sheffield to express their ‘support and solidarity’ for their action.
The letter states: “We appreciate and understand why you are compelled to take this action.”
A rally in support of junior doctors will take place in Barker’s Pool tomorrow, Wednesday, 1pm - 3pm.