South east London hospital leaders are pleading for people only to use A&E for “real emergencies” ahead of the latest junior doctor strikes.

Bosses at Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital, and Lewisham and Greenwich are bracing themselves for higher numbers of patients as they grapple with having fewer staff.

The British Medical Association has announced industrial action by junior doctors for three days from 7am today (Wednesday, December 20) until 7am on Saturday (December 23).

This will be followed by a six day strike from 7am on Wednesday, January 3 until 7am on Tuesday, January 9.

The latest wave of industrial action comes at a time when leaders say that emergency departments at south east London hospitals are already extremely busy.

Flu and other winter viruses are on the rise and there is added pressure due to Christmas party season.

In a joint statement, Professor Ian Abbs, Professor Clive Kay and Ben Travis, the chief executives of Guy's and St Thomas', King’s College Hospital, and Lewisham and Greenwich, said: “We are really disappointed that talks between the government and BMA have broken down.

“These strikes have been announced at one of the worst times of the year for us – before Christmas and just after Christmas.

“We are working hard to ensure patient safety is maintained and emergency services will be there for those that need them.

“But we would really appeal for people to use urgent and emergency services appropriately during the strike period to help our teams prioritise those patients who need care most urgently.

“For minor injuries, go to your nearest urgent treatment centre.

“Contact your GP or use NHS111 if you need medical help, and remember that your local pharmacy can provide a range of advice and help.

“As Christmas and New Year celebrations return to pre-pandemic levels, we would encourage people to take extra care to keep themselves safe and healthy and only use A&E in times of emergency.

“We will be here for those that need us but our services will be under stress and extremely busy."