Strike action affecting NHS services: information for patients

Trade unions representing some NHS staff are in dispute with the Government over the 2022/23 pay award.

A number of the unions have balloted their NHS members to take part in industrial action. As a result members of the GMB and Unison (ambulance staff) are striking on 11 January and members of UNISON (ambulance staff) are striking on the 23 January.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing are also due to take strike action on 18 and 19 January.

The NHS wants to see a resolution as soon as possible, but pay is a matter for the Government and the trade unions.

Key messages for patients

  • The NHS is already facing record demand on urgent and emergency care services – October and November were the busiest on record for A&E attendances and the most serious ambulance callouts. Industrial action means these services will be under increased pressure so it is vital that people use the services available appropriately.
  • Regardless of any strike action taking place, it is really important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.
  • If you have not been contacted by the NHS, please attend your appointment as planned. The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.
  • GP services are not impacted by this strike action. Please continue to attend your GP appointments, unless you are contacted and told otherwise.
  • The NHS is asking patients to use services wisely during industrial action and take simple steps to help ensure care is available to patients who need it most. This includes using 111 online as the first port of call for health needs and continuing to only use 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Patients should only call 999 if it is a medical or mental health emergency (when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk).
  • Ambulances will still be able to respond in these situations, but this may only be where there is an immediate risk to life.
  • There will be fewer ambulances on the roads during industrial action, with the NHS prioritising those with life-threatening needs. As a result patients whose conditions are not life-threatening may not get an ambulance on strike days.
  • Patients should take advice from 111 / 999 call-handlers on whether there are circumstances where it is suitable for them to make their own way to hospital.
  • During strike days, there is an expectation 999 services will be exempt; however, it is likely 999 call handlers will be very busy. NHS 111 call centres will have fewer staff, with longer call response times expected across the system. As a result, we are urging anyone with non-urgent care needs to first seek help from NHS 111 online.
  • The NHS is also asking the public to play their part by taking simple steps during industrial action to look after themselves, loved ones and checking in on vulnerable family members and neighbours.

For more information on when to call 999 and when to go to A&E, you can visit the NHS UK website.

There’s further information in this NHS Q&A.