RESIDENTS are being urged to use  NHS 111  for all non-emergency healthcare needs ahead of a six-day strike by junior doctors.

The walkout starts at 7am today, Wednesday, January 3, and runs until 7am on Tuesday, January 9.

Coming at the busiest time for the health service, significant service disruption is expected.

Almost half of all hospital doctors are junior doctors.

Dr Fiona Lemmens, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s deputy medical Director said: “Winter pressures are already having an impact on health and care services across Cheshire and Merseyside.

“The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to mitigate risks to patient safety and manage any disruption, including industrial action, but inevitably industrial action at this time year will cause significant service disruption.

"You should still call 999 or go to A&E in an emergency when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

“If you need urgent medical help and you're not sure where to go, use NHS 111 online to get assessed and directed to the right place for you.

"Hospitals across Cheshire and Merseyside are working extremely hard to ensure all patients who are fit to return home can do so safely.

“If you have a loved one who is ready to be discharged from hospital, you can help by helping to get them home as soon as practically possible."

Junior doctors work in almost every part of a busy hospital, including A&E where they might diagnose patient, administer anaesthetics, write prescriptions, support the process of admission and discharge, maintain the flow of patients through the hospital and ensure beds are available for those who need them the most.

Patients are urged to attend any planned appointments unless contacted directly by the NHS to reschedule.

Local NHS services will be using their websites and social media channels to provide up-to-date information to the public about local service disruption – so please check before you travel.

The NHS 111 service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call, go online or use the NHS App to find out: • Where to get help for your symptoms • How to find general health information and advice • Where to get an emergency supply of your prescribed medicine • How to get a repeat prescription • How to get an emergency dental appointment If needed, NHS 111 can also arrange a call back from a nurse, doctor or paramedic or an appointment at the most appropriate local service including local pharmacies, urgent treatment centres, GP practices or A&E.

More information about when to call 999 and when to go to A&E is available via the national NHS website.