City hospital bosses brace themselves for doctors' strike
PREPARATIONS are being made at Bristol's hospitals ahead of the first strike by doctors in almost 40 years.
Members of the British Medical Association are due to take industrial action on Thursday in a dispute with the Government about pensions.
Two thousand doctors are members of the BMA in the Bristol area and around half of them voted not to handle routine appointments and surgery on the day of action. Even if only those who voted took part it would mean around 1,000 doctors treating emergency cases only.
Managers at Bristol's two hospital trusts have refused to reveal how many doctors had informed them they would be taking part in the action or say how many operations and consultations are being cancelled as a result.
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Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said that, nationally, up to 1.25 million GP appointments are set to be cancelled, along with 30,000 operations, including an estimated 700 hip or knee replacements.
Care of hospital inpatients is not due to be affected by the action.
The body which represents doctors said it had taken the decision to strike reluctantly but felt it was the only way make the Government to listen to their concerns about making higher pensions contributions.
GP Simon Bradley, of Concorde Medical Centre and chairman of the Avon Local Medical Committee, which represents doctors in the area, said more hospital doctors than GPs had voted for action.
"There was also a higher number of younger doctors than older doctors," he added. "This is understandable as they will be the ones more effected by the changes."
The action has been described as "incredible" by Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore. The Conservative member of the Commons Health Select Committee said GPs were being offered "a £68,000-a-year pension deal that most people could only dream of".
James Rimmer, chief operating officer of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the city centre hospitals, said: "Our emergency departments and all other urgent services will be running as normal."
He said the trust had contacted non-urgent patients affected by the action and had set up a phone number – 0117 342 4000 – for patients to call tomorrow and on Thursday if they had queries.
North Bristol NHS Trust and Weston Area Health Trust also said all urgent and emergency services would be unaffected and anyone who had not been told their appointment was being cancelled should assume it is going ahead.