Detailed plans in place for nurses' strike
Ahead of the nurses' strike NHS leaders in the North East and North Cumbria are asking patients to attend appointments unless they have heard otherwise and that emergency care remains open.
Industrial action by the Royal College of Nursing will affect three NHS hospital trusts in the region - Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Newcastle Hospitals and those run by Northumbria Healthcare.
Dr Neil O'Brien, executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "Our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our patients and staff. We have been working extremely hard in recent weeks to plan for this strike, and detailed plans are in place at each affected hospital.
"Patients should attend appointments as planned unless they hear from the NHS to say otherwise. We will be re-arranging any postponed appointments as a priority.
"Urgent and emergency care services will remain open. If someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, please call 999.
"We have planned with great care, but services will be extremely busy. Please use services wisely - if it's not an emergency, use options like 111.nhs.uk, see a pharmacist or contact your GP. If you come to the emergency department with a minor illness, you are likely to face a long wait as our staff prioritise more serious cases."
Hospitals affected by the strike are contacting patients if there is any change to their planned appointments. If you have not been contacted, you should attend for your appointment, procedure or operation as planned. GP practices, urgent treatment centres, dentists and community pharmacies will be operating as normal during the strike action.
The strikes on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December will last for 12 hours each, though it may take slightly longer for services to return to normal afterwards.
For urgent health needs which are not life-threatening, NHS 111 and www.111.nhs.uk are available 24 hours a day, to assess your symptoms and help you get the right help, first time. To find details of pharmacists, urgent treatment centres and GP practices near you, visit www.nhs.uk.
For further guidance on the industrial action, visit the NHS England website.