A Somerset health chief is urging patients to consider the health care needs of themselves and their families over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend ahead of a planned walkout by junior doctors on Tuesday.

Dr Bernie Marden, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Somerset, said: “We want to make sure people are prepared in advance not only to avoid unnecessary worry, but also to help ensure care is available for those who need it the most.

“We know that bank holiday periods can add extra pressure on health and care services, especially with some services closing during the break.

“It is important that people know which service they should use for their healthcare need, and for those who take regular medication that they have made sure they have enough to last them and if not have ordered their prescription in plenty of time.”

"To make it even easier patients can use the NHS app to order repeat prescriptions.  This not only quicker and easier for the patient, but it also frees up practice lines for those needing to book urgent appointments before Easter.

“We want everyone to have a happy and healthy break. The NHS is always here for anyone who needs us, but we are also asking people to help us by being prepared and choosing the right healthcare service for their needs.”

NHS Somerset health bosses have also said in a statement: “While the situation may change in advance of Tuesday 11 April, we are keen to make sure people are prepared in advance of the impending Junior Doctor industrial action planned for Tuesday 11 April.

“While the NHS in Somerset is committed to keeping where possible, disruption to services to a minimum, we are also asking the public to carefully consider what healthcare support they need and to choose services wisely. This will allow us to prioritise those with the most urgent healthcare needs.”

NHS Somerset Foundation Trust, which runs Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, has issued guidance ahead of the four day strike by junior doctors.

In a statement they said: "From 7am on Tuesday 11 April until 7am on Saturday 15 April, junior doctors who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA), the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) and dental trainees who are members of the British Dental Association (BDA) are taking 96 hours of national strike action at a number of NHS trusts, including Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.

"This industrial action, which immediately follows the four-day Easter weekend, is a national dispute between the government and trades unions about terms and conditions.

"We are committed to maintaining patient care as much as possible and providing the most essential services on these days, however some planned procedures and appointments may be postponed to ensure that we can provide safe emergency and inpatient care during this time."

In a statement announcing the strike action, the BMA said: "A crippling cost-of-living crisis, burnout and well below inflation pay rises risk driving hard working doctors out of their profession at a time when we need them more than ever. To protect the NHS, the Government must engage and address doctors’ concerns. 

"But so far, they have refused to meet with us. This has left doctors with no other option but to vote on whether to take industrial action. If junior doctors are forced out of the NHS because of poor pay and conditions, the services we all rely on to look after our loved ones will suffer."

The government's Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, has accused unions of taking a "militant position" and said he was determined to reach agreement with doctors following successful negations with the nurse's union last month.