The NHS in Devon is asking people to collect their loved ones from hospital, if they are ready to be discharged – before consultants, junior doctors and radiographers go on strike this week.
Consultants and junior doctors in Devon are set to strike from 7am on Monday, October 2 until 7am on Thursday, October 5.
This will be the longest period of double strike action ever.
In addition, radiographers are also set to undertake industrial action for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday, October 3.
Dr Nigel Acheson, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Devon, said: “We are facing a perfect storm next week.
"We have three different strikes happening at the same time, and on top of that, they are taking place in the extra busy period straight after a weekend and following two weeks of huge pressure on healthcare services in Devon, so our hospitals are all very full.
“A high number of the county’s acute hospital beds are currently occupied by patients who are medically well enough to be discharged.
"To ensure we can free up beds for the really sick patients who are coming into our emergency departments, we ask anyone who has a loved one in hospital who is ready to come home, to come and collect them as soon as possible.”
If your loved one is ready to leave hospital, your support can help them return home.
Simple arrangements such as checking in, helping with meals and supporting with daily tasks mean that people can get home more quickly and will be supported to stay well.
The checklist for getting someone home from hospital:
• Is there somewhere clean and comfortable for them to recover?
• Do they have clean clothes to come home in?
• Is there lunch and dinner for their first day home?
• Do they need any essentials such as food, drink or medicines?
• If you’re driving, make sure you have checked the route and where to park.
Local people are also being reminded to use services wisely over the three days of industrial action to help the NHS cope with the challenging period ahead, as staffing levels will be reduced to limited "Christmas Day" cover.
During the last round of industrial action from September 19 to 22 there were 2,448 appointments at Devon Trusts rescheduled because of the strikes.
This industrial action by radiographers will impact many services for both the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation trust areas. (Radiographers at Royal Devon University Healthcare are not participating in industrial action.) Radiographers are healthcare professionals who operate scanning machines that take medical images which are used to diagnose different health conditions, for example x-rays to diagnose fractures.
The message from the NHS in Devon, for patients who need medical treatment during the strikes, is that urgent and emergency care will be there for you but please choose the right service for your needs.
The advice for patients is to:
• Continue to call 999 in emergency and life-threatening cases - when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk
• Go to NHS 111 online if you need medical help or advice, or you are unsure about whether you should go to hospital; you can also phone 111
• Check local hospital trust websites for information on Walk-In Centres, Minor Injury Units and Urgent Treatment Centres. Further information can be found here: Health Pressures - One Devon .
• Anyone with a hospital appointment should continue to attend as planned, unless they’ve been contacted to rearrange.
• If you, or someone you know, experiences a mental health crisis you can access support from a number of places:
o 24/7 urgent mental health helpline 0808 196 8708
o Mental Health Matters helpline (24/7) 0800 470 0317
o Mental Health Crisis Line Plymouth is open 24/7 0800 923 9323
o Samaritans 1116 123
o Text SHOUT to 85258 for 24/7 text support.
Advice is to play your part by taking simple steps during the industrial action to look after yourselves and loved ones, checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours.
A first step is making sure your medicine cabinet is well stocked.
Make use of community pharmacies, which can advise on minor illnesses and provide medications.
Details of which pharmacies are open can be found via the interactive map here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/info-professional/pharm-info/pharmacy-opening-hours/ .
Dr Acheson concludes: “We need people to use the most appropriate service for their need.
"The NHS in Devon will still be here for those who need us and people suffering a life-threatening emergency should not hesitate to contact 999 or attend one of our emergency departments.
“But I ask everyone else to carefully consider which service could help them best during the strike periods. 111 online is available for advice and your own GP or local pharmacy will be able to provide a range of other care.”