Consultants at the hospital featured in the 24 Hours in A&E TV series have launched a campaign to reassure patients that full emergency care will be provided during next week’s junior doctors’ strikes.
Senior medics at St George’s, in Tooting, set up a stall in the hospital foyer and published messages and a video on social media to allay fears about the impact of the two walkouts between 8am-5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Standard has learned that consultants at other London hospitals, including the Royal London, King’s College and Lewisham, will also provide full services across all urgent care departments. Many have cancelled days off or time reserved for admin to be present on the “shop floor” to support their junior colleagues.
Neel Bhanderi, an emergency consultant at St George’s, told the Standard that 19 consultants would be on duty at various stages next Tuesday to fill rota gaps. The hospital has about 60 juniors working in A&E.
He said: “We are fortunate to have 22 consultants, which is more than most places. People are coming in on their days off or are doing a 10-hour shift rather than an 8.5 or nine hour one. We all support the juniors who support the strike.
“We want to get the message out that if you are ill, still come to hospital. You are still going to get seen by senior people. It’s unprecedented the way the whole profession is united. That is something I have never seen before.”
Consultants across the capital were today posting messages under the under the Twitter hashtag #consultantcover to reassure patients. Last night the 22 medical royal colleges urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to resume talks with the British Medical Association to enable next week’s action – the first ever withdrawal of emergency care in the history of the NHS – to be averted.
The previous four stoppages in the dispute over the imposition of “unsafe” new contracts did not involve junior doctors in A&E or in maternity.
Consultants on labour wards have also vowed to cover absent juniors to protect women and newborn babies. Polly Hughes, a consultant obstetrician at St George’s, posted a video on YouTube in which she said: “Next week, on 26 and 27 April, I and my colleagues will be giving emergency care for all our ladies in obstetrics at St George’s hospital, to make sure that all our women and all our babies continue to be safe.”
Thousands of elective, or planned, operations are likely to be postponed as a result of the strike, with many outpatient clinics cancelled.
Ollie Minton, a consultant in palliative medicine at St George’s, said: “We want everyone to know the hospital is safe. You should come if you are unwell. You should come if it is an emergency. You should treat it as if it was any other day.”
Duncan Bew, clinical lead for trauma and emergency surgery at King’s College Hospital, in Denmark Hill, said: “We will be providing safe cover from the front line as we do every day as consultants in the acute specialities. It will be consultant-led and delivered care for all of our patients.”