DOCTORS in East Sussex will be going on strike today for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Hospitals have cancelled all non-urgent operations, while GPs are accepting only emergencies for a strike which the UK health secretary has described as “pointless”
The action is being taken by the British Medical Association whose 104,000 members voted for the industrial action to oppose Government moves to increase pension contributions and introduce a later retirement age.
Their action began at midnight and will last for 24 hours. The scale and the extent of the disruption to patients is not yet clear, although doctors have promised not to target emergency care. Much will depend on how many doctors take part.
Most medics working in the NHS are members of the BMA. While a majority of GPs are expected to take action, some are not and so arrangements may vary from one surgery to another.
The NHS is advising patients who need help in an emergency to use the service as they normally would.
Accident and emergency units will remain open, while mothers in labour will be able to go to maternity departments.
Appointments for urgent tests, such as for cancer, should also continue, however routine appointments and operations could be affected.
Hospitals should already have alerted some patients their care has been rearranged.
Appointments could be cancelled on the day as doctors do not have to tell their employers they are taking action.
GP surgeries will be open and take emergency appointments. Patients are being told to ring up for even seemingly run-of-the-mill ailments like colds.
Advanced GP appointments for things such as medicine reviews or follow-ups are likely to have been cancelled by doctors taking part.
Dentists are not involved and so services will run as normal.
Under the Government plans, doctors will be asked to work for longer - until 68 - and contribute more of their pay.
Ministers have insisted the changes are necessary.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “The BMA has failed to recognise the economic and political realities.
“We all wish there was more money to go round but there isn’t, everyone is having to tighten their belts.”
Have you been affected by strike today? Have you had an appointment cancelled, are you a GP or a medic taking part in the strike? We would love to hear from you.
For Eastbourne, call the newsdesk on: 01323 414488 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Hastings, Rye and Battle, call the newsdesk on 01424 856785 or email: email@example.com
For Bexhill: call the newsdesk on 01424 730555 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, please leave your comment about the strike action on this website.