Health bosses at Suffolk hospitals and in the community are on edge this week as a four-day strike by junior doctor throws the NHS into crisis.

At Ipswich hospital managers have been planning for the action for some time - with many procedures and consultations being postponed.

NHS Suffolk and North Essex, which manages primary health service in the area, advised people to be aware of the problems this week as doctors stage their second multi-day strike in two months.

But all said those with serious or life-threatening conditions should use the NHS as normal because emergency services would be covered.

Junior doctors at Ipswich Hospital walked out at 7am on Tuesday morning and are not due back at work until Saturday.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Hospital chief executive Nick Hulme

Nick Hulme is Chief Executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

He said: “As with previous strikes our teams have been carefully planning for the anticipated impact of the junior doctors’ strike action.

“Our focus is on protecting urgent and emergency services and this means we will need to reschedule a number of appointments and operations.

"This will help us to make sure we have the clinical staff available to keep urgent and emergency care and inpatient wards running safely.

"Patients will be contacted if their appointment needs to be rescheduled, so it is important that they continue to attend appointments as planned unless we contact them.

“It is vital that patients know they can seek medical help if they need it during the strike action, either via NHS 111 online or via 999/A&E if they have a life-threatening emergency.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Doctors were protesting outside Ipswich Hospital.Doctors were protesting outside Ipswich Hospital. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Dr Paul Molyneux, medical director for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Throughout this week’s BMA junior doctor strikes, our focus is to maintain patient safety as well as supporting our junior doctor colleagues in their legal right to take industrial action.

“Our emergency department remains open, however, we are extremely busy and patients unfortunately may be waiting longer than usual during this period of industrial action.

The medical director of the NHS in Suffolk and north east Essex, Dr Andrew Kelso, is warning that this week’s industrial action by junior doctors will have far greater impact on NHS services than last month’s action.

NHS services will remain open and people should attend any health appointments they have unless contacted beforehand by their health care provider, and those with life-threatening and emergency conditions should not hesitate in coming forward for treatment.

Dr Kelso, said: “While I recognise everyone’s right to strike, this latest action is going to have a significant impact on our patients, coming as it does on the back of an incredibly busy Easter holiday weekend.

“It’s going to be a very challenging few days, but if everyone does their bit, we can ensure the NHS in Suffolk and north east Essex is able to continue to look after the physical and mental health of local people.”

The BMA called the strike after the government refused to talk to them about a pay claim which ministers say would mean a 35% increase.

At Ipswich Hospital main entrance a small group of doctors gathered to make their case - while drivers sounded their horns to indicate their support for the cause.

BMA junior doctor committee co-chairman Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “We were knocking on the Health Secretary’s door, asking to meet with him to negotiate a settlement to this dispute, long before the current strike got underway.

“We would still be willing to suspend strike action this week if the Secretary of State makes a credible offer that can be the basis of negotiation.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is extremely disappointing the BMA has called strike action for four consecutive days.

“I hoped to begin formal pay negotiations with the BMA last month but its demand for a 35% pay rise is unreasonable."