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Junior doctors will put patients "in harm's way" by withdrawing emergency care during strikes next month, health minister Ben Gummer has said. It British Medical Association said it had been left with no choice against the imposition of a new contract in England. Previous junior doctors strikes have affected only routine care. But the all-out stoppages which will take place from 8:00am to 5pm on April 26/27th, will include emergency care. It will mean consultants being drafted in from other hospitals departments to staff emergency care, potentially causing huge disruption to routine services.
Labour's Heidi Alexander said this was a 'worrying time for patients' and urged ministers to listen to patients and to try and avert strike action. She told Commons 'The secretary of state may think the matter is closed, I say that is arrogant in the extreme".
How will this affect patients?
A full walk-out is unchartered territory for hospitals and raises the risk for patients. Consultants will have to be drafted in from all across the hospital to staff everything from intensive care units and emergency surgery to A&E. That will undoubtedly mean a mass postponement of routine work.
More importantly- what does this mean for life-threatening care; the heart attack patients or car accident victims. Greater consultant presence in A&E may mean better, quicker care as they will be more available to make decisions about what patients need.In emergency surgery; consultants are helped by junior colleagues. Having more consultants in a theater should resolve that. But where it becomes less clear is what sort of response patients on wards get if they have a medical emergency. Normally; junior doctors would be among the first medics called. Without them and with consultants and other staff deployed elsewhere; patients could become vulnerable.