A fresh round of strikes followed by the bank holiday weekend is set to ramp up hospital pressures further – exacerbating an already-challenging summer.

Some consultants at St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group will be taking industrial action on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 August, providing what is known as “Christmas Day cover” only.

That means that while all emergency care will continue, some appointments for things like elective surgery and non-emergency work will be rescheduled.

The August bank holiday weekend comes immediately after these strikes – which can often spell a rise in demand.

As a result, members of the public are being urged to use NHS services wisely to ensure care continues to be available for those most in need – and to also remember that going to an emergency department when it’s less urgent doesn’t mean they will be seen more quickly.

People may also be redirected to another service if that is better suited to their healthcare need.

Dr Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer for St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group, said: “Summer is traditionally less busy for the NHS, but that certainly hasn’t been the case this year. Industrial action and periods of increased demand – including our busiest day ever in our emergency departments – have meant we’ve faced significant pressures.

“That looks set to continue this week and into the weekend, so once again we’re asking for your support. If you need medical help, please consider whether our emergency departments are the best place for you to be, or if it’s more appropriate for you to seek treatment elsewhere.”

When it’s an emergency or life-threatening, members of the public should always call 999 or visit an emergency department. People are also urged to continue to attend their appointments, unless they hear otherwise. Anyone whose appointment needs to be rescheduled will be contacted.

For less urgent care, NHS 111 online should be the first port of call, and can direct people where to go 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

GP surgeries and pharmacies are also largely unaffected by strikes and can help with illnesses such as tonsillitis, coughs, colds and earaches.

Injuries like sprains and strains can be treated at home – or a pharmacist can advise on the best treatment.

Those who take medication should remember to collect repeat prescriptions ahead of the bank holiday weekend. This is easy to do through the NHS app.

Over the weekend, many pharmacies will also be open – although their hours may vary.

For mental health support in a crisis in Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton or Wandsworth, South West London’s 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line can be reached on: 0800 028 8000. There’s more information about this service here: https://www.swlstg.nhs.uk/patients-carers/crisis-support/mental-health-support-line

For adults, young people, and children in Surrey and North East Hampshire, 24-hour support is available by calling: 0800 915 4644. There’s more information here: https://www.sabp.nhs.uk/our-services