The New Zealand junior doctors' strike provided an opportunity to consider strategies that might be employed to overcome the international shortage of junior doctors. This article reports the experience of the emergency department (ED) and internal medicine (IM) services at Wellington Hospital during the national strike, in which medical services were primarily provided by specialist consultants in addition to, or as part of, their routine work. During the strike, elective admissions and outpatient clinics were mostly cancelled. In the ED, the waiting times and length of stay were markedly reduced. In IM, the proportion of patients admitted to the short stay unit rather than the general medical wards increased. Notwithstanding the different work circumstances, in both services one senior doctor carried the workload of at least two junior doctors. The deployment of additional senior medical staff to acute hospital services could greatly reduce the total number of doctors required. This strategy would have implications in terms of supporting acute medicine specialty initiatives, training, quality of care and funding.