NHS warns of strike disruption amid high demand
Blurry hospital staff in a corridor

The NHS has warned of strike disruption, amid high demand for services this week.

Junior doctors are striking from 7am on Saturday (24 February) to midnight on Wednesday (28 February).

Routine care will be impacted, while urgent and emergency services are prioritised.

Bed occupancy is currently high, with 95.3 per cent of adult general and acute beds occupied in the week ending 18 February.

There were almost four times as many flu patients in hospital every day last week (2,208) than in the same week last year (638), and up from 1,582 a month ago.

There were 89,377 ambulance handovers to hospitals last week, up 12 per cent from 79,752 in the same week last year.

NHS call handlers also answered 369,030 calls to 111, up 10 per cent from the 336,656 answered in the same week last year. However, 59.5% of calls were answered within 60 seconds last week, compared with 44.9% in the same week last year.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “It’s not possible to have 1 in every 10 days affected by strikes for over a year without it having a huge impact on services, patients, their families, and staff.

“Coupled with today’s figures which show bed capacity is constrained, with more patients in hospital than this time last year – and thousands of patients in hospital with flu, norovirus and Covid-19 – alongside ongoing demand for urgent and emergency care, the enormous challenge faced by the NHS is clear.

“Colleagues across the country have worked incredibly hard to ensure urgent and life-saving care has continued during more than a year of strike action, while also delivering progress on our recovery plans, but the NHS is under huge strain trying to mitigate the impact of these latest strikes during one of the most difficult times of the year.

“It remains vital that people who need care come forward and get it in the usual way – using 999 and A&E in life-threatening emergencies and 111 for everything else.”