NHS strike chaos begins as A&E unit CLOSES ahead of devastating three-day walk-out as injured A&E patient is made to lie on hospital floor during horrifying 45-HOUR wait for bed

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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NHS strike chaos has already forced one A&E department to close over the festive period. 

Cheltenham General Hospital’s unit shut this morning until 8am on December 23 — shortly after the national three-day junior doctor strike ends.

It will close once again from 8pm on January 1 until 8am on January 9, covering the next wave of British Medical Association (BMA) action, which will be the biggest to ever rock the NHS. 

Patients in life-threatening conditions will be diverted 30 minutes to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital for emergency care.

Health chiefs have already warned the upcoming action threatens ‘huge disruption’ to ‘almost all’ routine care. 

It comes during what is typically the busiest time of the year for hospitals, which are already juggling record backlogs.

In a sign of the dire pressures facing the NHS before the strike carnage kicks in, one A&E patient in Kent was made to endure a 45-hour wait for a ward bed to become available.

Cheltenham General Hospital’s unit shut this morning until 8am on December 23 – shortly after the national three-day junior doctor strike ends

Steven Wells (pictured sleeping on the floor at William Harvey hospital in Ashford, Kent) endured a 45-hour A&E wait after starting to vomit blood and was forced to sleep on the floor while waiting to be admitted

Steven Wells (pictured sleeping on the floor at William Harvey hospital in Ashford, Kent) endured a 45-hour A&E wait after starting to vomit blood and was forced to sleep on the floor while waiting to be admitted

NHS bosses had already warned that hospitals will operate at full capacity for just four weekdays until January 10. Only December 27, 28, 29 and January 2 are unaffected by the impending chaos of the holidays and walk-outs until January 10

NHS bosses had already warned that hospitals will operate at full capacity for just four weekdays until January 10. Only December 27, 28, 29 and January 2 are unaffected by the impending chaos of the holidays and walk-outs until January 10

Steven Wells, a 31-year-old forklift driver, was vomiting blood when he arrived at the William Harvey hospital in Ashford, Kent at 1am on November 13. 

But he was not given a bed on a ward until 10pm on November 14. 

Sharing a picture of him sleeping on the floor, Mr Wells said: ‘It was honestly like a war zone at times. It makes me not want to go back to hospital, as the last time was so traumatic and embarrassing.

‘You have people looking down on you, stepping over you, and all you want is to just be looked after.’

He added: ‘They need more full-time proper staff in place. There’s no excuse at all for the way I was treated.

‘If you’re in that much pain and discomfort, they should find a bed for you anywhere.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust said the closure had ‘not been taken lightly’ and it would work closely with local partners to ensure those in ‘greatest need continue to have access to high quality care and support’.

During both outages, no minor injury and illness unit services will either be provided at Cheltenham General Hospital. It will be closed overnight the entire time. 

Dr Ananthakrishnan Raghuram, chief medical officer at NHS Gloucestershire, said: ‘We are sorry that many patients will experience disruption to services.’ 

Patients who have a planned hospital operation or procedure during the strike period should attend as usual unless they hear otherwise.

Thousands of junior doctors will abandon posts for three days before Christmas, starting on December 20. 

Another six days of action — the longest in the health service’s 75-year history — are pencilled in from January 2. 

Staff are expected to work on a ‘Christmas day’ basis for both spells of industrial action, meaning that emergency care should continue to be given. 

Ministers and representatives from the BMA had been locked in negotiations for five weeks, trying to find a resolution to the long-running pay dispute.

But the union said its junior doctors committee voted unanimously for further strikes after accusing the Department for Health and Social Care of failing to put forward a ‘credible’ offer.

They said the Government’s three per cent rise on top of the average 8.8 per cent increase they received in the summer was ‘completely insufficient’. 

Junior doctors begin on £30,000 but can earn up to £60,000 before progressing through the ranks.

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, Wes Streeting, said: ‘The prospect of A&E departments closing thanks to Rishi Sunak’s failure to end NHS strikes will send shivers down patients’ spines.

Mr Wells (pictured with his partner and two children), a 31-year-old forklift driver, arrived at the William Harvey hospital at 1am on November 13. But he was not given a bed on a ward until 10pm on November 14

Mr Wells (pictured with his partner and two children), a 31-year-old forklift driver, arrived at the William Harvey hospital at 1am on November 13. But he was not given a bed on a ward until 10pm on November 14

Mr Wells (pictured sleeping on the floor at William Harvey hospital) said: 'It was honestly like a war zone at times. It makes me not want to go back to hospital, as the last time was so traumatic and embarrassing. 'You have people looking down on you, stepping over you, and all you want is to just be looked after'

Mr Wells (pictured sleeping on the floor at William Harvey hospital) said: ‘It was honestly like a war zone at times. It makes me not want to go back to hospital, as the last time was so traumatic and embarrassing. ‘You have people looking down on you, stepping over you, and all you want is to just be looked after’

‘The Conservatives must now stop playing politics with our NHS, get around the table with junior doctors, and negotiate an end to these strikes.’

NHS bosses had already warned that hospitals will operate at full capacity for just four weekdays until January 10. 

Only December 27, 28, 29 and January 2 are unaffected by the impending chaos of the holidays and walk-outs until January 10. 

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: ‘When you factor in the Christmas and New Year break, these strikes will prolong that period of reduced activity and it also puts the health service on the back foot into the new year, which is a time where we see demand start to rise significantly.’ 

The NHS has now dealt with a full calendar year of strikes, with the first taking place on December 15, 2022. 

Since then, more than 1.1million inpatient and outpatient appointments have been rescheduled. 

But BMA junior doctors committee co-chairmen Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi today also cautioned that the Government could still ‘avoid the need for these strikes’.

They added: ‘We will be ready and willing any time they want to talk. If a credible offer can be presented the day before, or even during any action, these strikes can be cancelled.

‘Every winter we raise the alarm about the NHS and every winter the Government fails to put the necessary investment into staff to prevent the crisis — now is the time to break the trend.’

Latest NHS figures show nearly 43,000 emergency department attendees across England in November had to wait more than 12 hours before being admitted, transferred or discharged.

Just seven in 10 were seen within four hours — the health service’s target.

But these figures only look at trolley waits — the time between doctors deciding a patient needs to be admitted and them getting a bed.

Figures capturing exact arrival times at A&E paint a much bleaker picture, with up to one in 10 forced to wait at least 12 hours. 

Dr Vicky Price, president-elect of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: ‘We have been warning of the dangers of corridor care almost all year, and the fact it has persisted for such a duration reflects that it is now perceived as routine practice — but it is unacceptable.

‘It is not safe, particularly for older patients. It is degrading and it is demoralising for staff.’

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