Junior doctors’ strike escalates

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Junior doctors on the picket line at St Thomas’ Hospital are not afraid of Health Secretary Hunt
Junior doctors on the picket line at St Thomas’ Hospital are not afraid of Health Secretary Hunt

‘WE ARE not striking for cash, we are not striking for our personal careers, we are striking for the long-term sustainability of the NHS and for our patients,’ junior doctor Antonio de Marvao told News Line on the picket line outside Hammersmith Hospital in west London yesterday.

Car horns blared in support of striking junior doctors on hospital picket lines all around London. At Chelsea and Westminster Hospital striking junior doctor Owen said: The government won’t listen to us and our concerns have not been addressed so taking strike action is the only way to defend our contracts. It is also a vote of no confidence in Hunt and the government and the way they have lied and spinned on the issues.’

BMA strikers were in a determined mood at the Royal Free Hospital, north west London. Dr Sarah Tayabali told News Line: ‘I’ve been a junior doctor for four years. Our strike is important. We are the first NHS workers to be attacked, next will come the nurses, physiotherapists and all the other allied health professionals.’

Dr Benedict Phillips said: ‘I’m taking strike action because the government’s proposed new contract would see patient safety fall apart and I have made an oath to protect patient safety at all costs. I see this strike as upholding that oath. Other unions should take action to defend all public services.’

At Homerton Hospital in Hackney, Sarantos Kaptanis said: ‘The proposed changes are appalling and they are the first step in dismantling the NHS they are not safe for our patients or for the hard working doctors, nurses and other staff at hospitals.’

At the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Jessica Gale, a junior doctor, said: ‘The strike has to be successful for the whole of the NHS and it is time that the government started listening to people who are on the frontline. Patient safety has to be paramount. It is certainly not about pay and an easy life as has been put out by Jeremy Hunt. We want safe conditions to work in, where patients get the best treatment available.’

Claire Andrews, a trainee GP working in paediatrics, told News Line: ‘It is amazing that nurses are coming out to support the junior doctor. It is not just about patients but the conditions of NHS staff. They are trying to take way nurses’ bursaries. We support the fight to maintain bursaries, it is one fight. We know that so much of health is determined by social problems, housing and education, so we are fighting for all workers.’

Helen Grote, picketing outside UCLH early yesterday morning, said: ‘I’ve been a junior doctor for eight years and this new contract does have safety implications. It disproportionally affects junior doctors who already provide a seven-day emergency service.

‘Junior doctors graduate with £70,000-£100,000 debt and then have to pay £860 per exam for continuous professional development exams out of our own pockets. We have a strong message for Jeremy Hunt that we are not going to back down. We need £20 billion investment in the NHS. The government is trying to fill a financial black hole by cutting junior doctors’ pay.

‘Hunt can’t be trusted. They are coming for nurses and everyone. Look at the US, that’s what they want. People should have access to a health service free at the point of need.’

On the lively picket line at North Middlesex Hospital Dr Oliver Spooner told News Line: ‘This government should go. Austerity is clearly not working. The NHS should not be touched it should be prized. We’re too united to stop fighting’.

Katie Knight, junior doctor  in paediatrics, said: ‘I was on the march on Saturday, I think it was a very effective show of strength to show how passionate we feel about this government’s destruction of the NHS. We have had a lot of support from other unions but we need action from the TUC.’

Junior doctors were joined by Young Socialists members from Leyton Sixth Form College and Unison members and consultants on the picket line outside Whipps Cross Hospital in Walthamstow, east London.

Josie Prynn, a junior doctor at Whipps Cross Hospital said: ‘This is not the last of our strike action. This is the beginning of the struggle. We will be out until we win. It is great that the student nurses are coming out on strike in solidarity with us. They are under a lot of pressure as well. It is so short-sighted and foolish to take away student nurses bursaries.’

Retired consultant Rob Owen, who worked at Whipps Cross Hospital for 22 years told News Line: ‘I have come here today to support my junior ex-colleagues. Anyone who is working anti-social hours should get paid more. Working people should get time for their family life.

‘What this is really about is that Hunt wants to show who is boss. This is a great healthcare system and it needs defending, it is one of the high points of this country’s cultural development.’

On the lively picket of twenty doctors outside The Maudsley psychiatric hospital, Dr Tom Gilberthorpe said: ‘I saw Hunt on the Andrew Marr show and I was shocked at how cold, how arrogant how smooth-talking he was and his lack of humility.

‘It’s very, very clear that he has got an agenda to push. Their agenda is for a 7-day working NHS, which is an agenda to dismantled the NHS and privatise it. We know that as doctors, that is one of the reasons we are stood here with the public, it’s not just about our contract. Our priority is safety for patients, but more than that its the safety of future generations and upholding an institution that we all feel very very passionate about.’

On a 100-strong picket at Kings College Hospital, Camberwell, Dr Chris James said: ‘We are striking against new contracts which are unsafe for patients and unsafe for doctors and threaten the NHS. This is a struggle that involves other unions, nurses, other allied health professions and everyone. And we need to all stand strong together, we can definitely win this.”

Dr Clare Snowden, Paediatrics Registrar, said: ‘Hunt says the new contract will mean we will work less hours, that isn’t true! If there are not enough of us then how can that be true. It’s not only about junior doctors, in the contract there is a statement that “weekend working” changes will be rolled out to other professions, nurses, porters and everyone else who works weekends. We are just the first level. It’s a challenge.

‘We have to work with our union the BMA. We haven’t explored all of the possibilities that we have. There is still the risk of an all out strike, but consultants are perfectly capable of covering for us, they train us. We are not against a full walk-out but we will do it with patient safety in mind.’

Sarah Mulboon, Anaesthetic Registrar speaking on the loudhailer to address the many members of the public outside KCH that stopped to sign their large board, said: ‘The Health Secretary intends to impose this contract on us at the end of this month if we don’t capitulate.

‘We can’t continue to give all that we give under these new conditions. Hunt picked on junior doctors because he thought we were weak and we would bow down quickly, which we have not, and we have stood behind our union.’

Dr Sophie Herbert, on the picket at St George’s Hospital in Tooting said: ‘If we don’t beat this contract, next it will be the nurses and then the privatisation of the whole of the Health Service.’

Hannah Barham-Brown, a final year medical student who joined the picket, said: ‘I‘m out here to support my future colleagues who are fighting for me as a future medic and patient. There are a lot of battles ahead. We have a huge amount of support. Nationally people should come together and if necessary strike to defend services.’

At St Thomas Hospital, Dr Michael Burns, said: ‘We’ve had 100% support from the public. We have had more coffee and cakes than we know what to do with. We hope this puts more pressure on Cameron and Hunt who are already under pressure from their own party.

‘They are attacking student nurses and their bursaries and the consultants. The battle lines have been drawn and we have to standup to this attack. This struggle is bringing our union together, the government has an agenda for private change and it is a real agenda. It’s only action like this that they understand.’

A lot of Unison members were on the picket lines with flags and banners.

Unison said in a statement: ‘Everyone wants to see a better NHS, but it won’t be delivered by attacking the pay and working conditions of junior doctors. So it was a pleasure this morning to join doctors on the picket line at my local hospital in Barnet, and hear from some of those who will be hit by Hunt’s planned changes.

‘Unison stands behind the junior doctors as they stand up for their rights at work and for patient safety, but unfortunately these attacks will come as no surprise to student nurses. They are already on the receiving end of one of George Osborne’s most foolish cuts – the removal of the student nursing bursary.

‘There is a national shortage of nurses. Landing future generations with debts of over £50,000 as a way of balancing the budget is misguided at best, and is likely to mean that only those from affluent backgrounds will ever be able to afford to join the profession.

‘That’s why student nurses will join junior doctors on their picket lines at lunchtime today. They will stand side by side with them against a government that is cutting them both adrift. In doing so, ministers are not just damaging our NHS but also putting patients at risk.’