Managers at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital have warned they are preparing themselves for further disruption after another series of junior doctors’ strikes was announced this week.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) are set to stage three 48 hour walkouts, with the first set for March 9, in their continuing contract dispute with the government.
And officials at the QEH have admitted services are likely to be affected by the latest action.
Clare Badenhorst, the trust’s director of operations and service support, said: “As always our primary commitment is to the welfare of patients and the priority during our contingency planning has been and will continue to be their safety and care.
“We are doing our best to ensure the hospital operates as close to normal as possible for the announced forthcoming strikes. We do expect that there will be a number of cancellations.
”As with previous strikes, we will contact any of our patients that are affected. If you have not heard from us, but have an appointment on a strike day, please attend as normal.”
Following the March strike, two further 48-hour walkouts are planned to begin at 8am on April 6 and April 26 respectively.
Although emergency cover will continue to be provided during the stoppages, the move appears to represent an escalation of the dispute after health secretary Jeremy Hunt signalled his intention to impose a new contract on junior doctors across England earlier this month.
The government maintains the move is necessary in order to create a full seven day a week health service.
But the BMA says the contract is unfair and would undermine patient care by removing key safeguards relating to working hours.
The union has also signalled its intention to seek a judicial review of Mr Hunt’s decision to implement the contract, claiming that the government failed to undertake equality assessments of the move.
Meanwhile, QEH bosses have said they will take the advice of health regulators before deciding whether to implement the new contract or not.
Some national media reports have suggested that foundation trusts, such as the QEH, are not legally obliged to enforce the contract on its junior doctors. Around 150 currently work at the QEH.
But chief executive Dorothy Hosein said: “We will be complying with the guidelines issued by Monitor.”