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Local NHS preparing for junior doctors' strike action

The doctors’ union the British Medical Association has announced that junior doctors will go on strike over the festive period and into the new year. Currently the strikes will run from:

  • 7am, Wednesday 20 December 2023 until 7am, Saturday 23 December 2023

            and from

  • 7am, Wednesday 3 January 2024 until 7am, Tuesday 9 January 2024

Public support is being requested as these strikes will cause significant disruption to local services for three of the busiest weeks of the year for the health service. There will also be some disruption before and after as NHS services adjust to prepare for the industrial period.

Even with careful planning both routine and emergency care are likely to be significantly affected. To prioritise life-saving emergency treatment, hospitals in Hertfordshire, West Essex, East of England and beyond will have to postpone some non-urgent operations, treatments and routine appointments. Anyone whose treatment is going to be cancelled will be contacted directly.

The first week of January is historically one of the busiest of the year, partly due to seriously ill people putting off seeking help over the bank holidays. If you or a loved one are very ill at Christmas or the new year, get medical advice straight away. Early help can prevent hospital admissions and save lives.

NHS 111 online

People who need care for a life-threatening emergency should continue to go to A&E or call 999 for assistance. However, if your issue is not a life-threatening medical emergency, use NHS 111 online as your first port of call. 111 online can be reached via 111.nhs.uk, and offers advice on urgent medical concerns as well as information about prescriptions and the option to order emergency repeat prescriptions if you have completely run out.

There will be more staff in the NHS 111 service to cover these challenging periods. NHS 111 will refer you to the best service for your needs if you need to be seen by a clinician. This includes referrals to your local pharmacy, a Minor Injury Unit, or an Urgent Treatment Centre near you.


If you have any scheduled appointments, attend as normal, unless you are contacted otherwise and your appointment has been postponed.


  • Make sure you get your repeat prescriptions in good time – ensure you have supplies of essential prescription medicine you will need over the strike period. Use the online form on your GP’s website or the NHS app to order your repeat prescriptions.  Get your requests in, in plenty of time, allowing up to five working days before you need more medicine. You may even be able to pick for a repeat at your regular pharmacy, meaning you just need to make a note in your diary for when to pick up your next lot of medication.
  • Remind anyone visiting you over the next few weeks who are coming to stay to bring their prescription medicine with them.
  • Stock up on general medication such as painkillers, cold/flu medications, antihistamines, oral rehydration salts, anti-diarrhoea tablets and indigestion treatments before the holiday begins. Many own brand medicines can save you money and be just as effective.
  • If you have a pre-booked appointment at hospital or a clinic, attend as scheduled, unless you are contacted and told your appointment has been postponed.
  • Local pharmacies and GP practices will be open as usual. Please contact them first if you have a health condition that needs checking or an illness that won't go away.
  • You can find a list of pharmacies or Urgent Care Centres that are open out of hours by visiting www.nhs.uk and using the NHS service finder on the front page of the website.
  • If you need urgent health help, use NHS 111 online (www.111.nhs.uk) or call 111.
  • If you are in a mental health crisis, call NHS 111 and get straight through to mental health help by selecting option 2.
  • Feeling a bit under the weather? The NHS website has lots of advice to help you to look after yourself when you have minor symptoms. There is also information about what is a serious medical emergency: When to call 999 - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
  • Do not visit anyone in a hospital or care home if you have recently had diarrhoea or vomiting. Stomach bugs are easily spread, make already ill people very seriously unwell, and can lead to whole hospital wards being closed. Please wait 48 hours after your last bout of sickness or diarrhoea before visiting anyone who is vulnerable. 

Some suggested links for further information

For information around community pharmacies stocking palliative care drugs open over the Christmas click here and  Boxing Day/ New Year bank holiday period. click here

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