‘We are fighting for the NHS! Everyone must come out and join this fight!’

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EMILY MILLS, NISA SEKHON and SAIRA SIDDIQUI were among the lively crowd of campaigning junior doctors outside Liverpool St station
EMILY MILLS, NISA SEKHON and SAIRA SIDDIQUI were among the lively crowd of campaigning junior doctors outside Liverpool St station

‘SUPPORT junior doctors! Save the NHS! Let’s stop this unfair, untested and unsafe contract from being imposed. This contract is bad for patient safety, it’s a bad contract. We are one profession and we stand together!’ junior doctor Saira Siddiqui from the Royal London Hospital in east London declared to the crowds who had stopped to listen outside Liverpool Street station.

Junior doctors were mass leafleting outside the busy station as thousands of people were passing by on their way to work. They won big support with people constantly stopping to take stickers, badges, leaflets and show their support.

Saira Siddiqui told News Line: ‘Everyone should come out on strike together because the NHS is for everyone, this strike is for everyone.’ A junior doctor, also from the Royal London Hospital, Mohamed Mohamed, said: ‘I am from Ireland where there is a mix between public and private health care. To see your GP costs 50 euros, to visit the A&E without a GP referral is 100 euros. I left because I was demoralised by the lack of availability to those who need it. I can’t help but feel quite a profound sense of deja vu.

‘This strike is about protecting patients.’

Outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, junior doctors had come out to the main road to win support from passing motorists and passers-by. Vishnu Parameshwaran said: ‘Yesterday’s strike was fantastic. We had a lot of support from the public. We organised a bone marrow recruitment drive at the Ideas Centre in Whitechapel and had a Teaching CPR session at St Paul’s.

‘This morning has been a real success and as always we have had very positive feedback. Our consultants are dedicated to providing emergency cover. With our full walk-out at the end of the month our senior doctors are committed to looking after patients. Patients are our number one priority. We just want to get on with our jobs and look after our patients. All the government have to do is get rid of the imposition of this unsafe contract. How can 55,000 junior doctors be wrong?’

On the picket line at Whipps Cross Hospital in Walthamstow, east London BMA junior doctors rep Niki Fitzgerald told News Line: ‘I was really pleased with how yesterday’s strike went. From the picket here outside Whipps Cross Hospital, we marched at lunch through the streets of Walthamstow to Walthamstow Central, where we did a Meet the Doctors event.

‘We got a lot of media coverage this time and it felt more like our position came across – that imposition is unacceptable. We are moving towards our full walk-out and we want everyone to know that we would not do it unless we absolutely had to. The government are digging their heels in and are being pig-headed. This is down to Cameron. They could end this tomorrow. We have to win, there is no other option.’

Alliyah Campbell, from Walthamstow YS supported the junior doctors picket at Whipps Cross. She said: ‘It is ridiculous to make doctors work so many hours a week. This is not only dangerous for patients but it is dangerous for doctors as well. Cameron must be kicked out!’

At Ealing Hospital there was a big picket with a rally at lunchtime attended by local MPs. The doctors set up their picket alongside the West London Council of Action banner fighting against the planned closure of the hospital. BMA member Edward Botcherby said: ‘By August, when they intend to impose the new contract it will be difficult to turn back what they have done already.

‘My main problem with the contract is that it has been pitched as a pay rise, and indeed it is for the very small proportion of people working in the least stressful jobs.

‘However, the renegotiation of out-of-hours pay is ultimately going to lead to a significant pay cut for those working very stressful rotas with a high out-of-hours component.’

Manmeet Matharoo brought her two young sons to the picket. She said: ‘I have been explaining to my sons how health secretary Hunt is taking action against our pay and conditions. I essentially work for free on my days off to do research. This contract disadvantages those doing part-time work, those that are carers, and those doing academic work alongside clinical work.

‘It stifles diversity in the NHS. Hunt has got his sights first on junior doctors, consultants, then nursing teams. Now we want real support from the rest of the trade union movement,’ she concluded. BMA member Joe Wacher said: ‘We have to rally together to defeat the imposition of this contract. The wording in the contract concerning female colleagues is something that I might have expected to hear fifty years ago.’

Junior doctor Anne Ryan came off her A&E night shift to join the picket line outside the Royal Free Hospital, north west London. She told News Line: ‘I moved from America ten years ago because I believed in the principles of the NHS and wanted to work in it.

‘I still simply believe in those principles.

‘I am currently very concerned about the impact of the new contract on patient safety.

‘I’m particularly concerned because I am an A&E doctor and work increasingly long hours already. I’m happy to do that but not to the detriment of my patients. Tired doctors make mistakes.’

Fellow BMA member James Williams said: ‘We’re still reaching out for the government to come back to the table to negotiate. There’s grave concerns among the medical community, including the Royal Colleges and the World Health Organisation, that the new contract is unsafe and unfair. The contract was only released last week. Imposing a contract that has not been tested or trialled goes to show a complete disregard for the way the NHS is staffed. It’s each individual union’s decision, if they feel ours is a fair dispute it’s good for them to show support.’

UCL medical student Harry Williams joined the picket line. He said: ‘I’m here supporting the junior doctors’ strike. I think it is really important we get behind the strike and challenge the imposition, hopefully to get a more equitable outcome for patients and doctors.’

Junior doctors on strike at Charing Cross hospital in Hammersmith were bombarded with horns tooting along the busy Fulham Palace Road yesterday morning.‘I’d give the nine million to you!’ shouted one lorry driver to the pickets in response to the government’s spending on a pro-EU leaflet.

Hammersmith NUT members joined the picket and brought along plenty of cakes. Mark Hopper from Hammersmith NUT told News Line, ‘We face the same problems as junior doctors, privatisation and a government that’s not listening to us and is not good for public services. At the NUT conference, we discussed joint action with junior doctors.’

Junior doctor Sarah Hogan said: ‘I’m proud to be on strike because it is for the greater good and it’s great to see so much public support and we want more action.’ Jennifer Burgess, another junior doctor on strike at Charing Cross, said: ‘I came into medicine to work for people not a private company. I want a future of socialist medicine that provides for people’s needs. It’s not right to make a profit out of people’s health. I’ve been amazed at the range of public support from white vans to four by fours. I see doctors, who are not political people, becoming politicised by this strike.’

Hammersmith Hospital striking junior doctor, Antonio de Marvao, said: ‘I think a general strike would be awesome – doctors, teachers, civil servants, all those who keep our public services running against a government that is trying to destroy them.’

On the picket line at Hammersmith Hospital, junior doctor Flora Kormendy said: ‘This is my first hour on strike. I have only worked in Britain for two months but I am glad to show my support for the future of the NHS.’

At St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, junior doctor Helen Nightingale said: ‘I think people are realising that if the government gets away with imposing this contract on us, they will then go for nurses and other NHS staff. Decisions are taken before the public is told. The Paediatric Department at Ealing is due to be closed. I worked in the baby unit there which was a really lovely unit with great staff and now that’s been closed.’

Patients were queuing to sign the junior doctors’ petition on the picket line at Barnet hospital. BMA rep Matteo De Martano told News Line: ‘It is sad that we find ourselves striking again but this is the action we have to take for our patients’ safety in the future. We appreciate the messages of solidarity from teachers, and the government clearly have a plan beyond just dismantling the NHS.

‘The unsafe, unfunded, irresponsible contract being imposed is just the beginning. Nicky Morgan’s recent speech to teachers may as well have been written by Jeremy Hunt and we will stand with the teachers against irresponsible impositions by the government.’

At St. Thomas’ Hospital across from Parliament a lively picket ensured that Hunt knew he was on a loser. Dr Joe Lipton, Anaesthetics Registrar, said: ‘The junior doctors appreciate the support we’re getting from the trade union movement and we hope for a co-ordinated approach to resist the incursions into the pay and conditions of all public sector workers.’

The picket lines outside King’s College Hospital (KCH) were stronger, livelier and even more determined than yesterday, Dr Chris James told News Line. There were twenty of us outside here at 8am this morning. People are starting to realise that this is more than just about the doctors’ contracts; this is about saving our NHS.

‘Junior doctors will be holding public meetings, demonstrations and all sorts of activities between now and the full walk-out on the 26th and 27th of this month. We want the population to join us.’

Sarah Muldoon, junior doctor at KCH, said: ‘I am back at the picket line today because the government has further exacerbated my anger by publishing the details of a contract which openly discriminates against women, which would see female parents or any parent in fact paid less per hour than other doctors.

‘As a woman I am not willing to sign up to a contract which values my worth less than my male counterparts, particularly when women now make up the majority of this valuable profession. This contract remains fundamentally unfair for the doctors it will shackle, unsafe for the patients who will be at the mercy of it, and junior doctors remain united and are fighting to see this contract torn up.’

Asked if she supported the lobby of the TUC General Council to organise general strike action, Sarah said: ‘I think this government has unleashed a broad range of policies, which are disadvantageous to the working people of the United Kingdom and the public servants who work for them.

‘They are attacking teachers, nurses doctors, police and firefighters. This is an issue that affects everyone across the UK and for that reason I would like to see every workers’ union unite to reject this government’s policies, the junior doctors’ contract included amongst that.

‘I fundamentally reject this government. They are not the government that people of this country voted for and I look forward to the day when we see Cameron walk out of Downing Street never to return.’

Dr David Codling outside Maudsley Hospital said: ‘I’m here because the threat of imposition by the government is unfair, heavy handed and contrary to all the rules of democracy. The contract we are threatened with is unsafe, it doesn’t give us the required amount of breaks to practice our jobs safely and fairly. It is inequitable to women and to those doing part time, or have caring responsibilities and I think it is utterly wrong.’

Asked if he thought the other trade unions should take strike action in support of the junior doctors he said: ‘I think that the fight against austerity, the enforced regime of public sector cuts that we have been put under is everyone’s fight and I really hope that everybody will take part in action to try and prevent this.’

At St George’s Hospital in Tooting, Wandsworth National Union of Teachers (NUT) joined the picket. Jan Nielsen, NUT Joint Secretary, told News Line: ‘We are here because the doctors’ fight is our fight, against privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. At the NUT conference at Easter, teachers made it clear that they want to actively support and join with the doctors’ strike. We all need to be out together.’

Doctor Christina Micanovic, picketing outside St. George’s Hospital told News Line: ‘The public are on our side and we are extremely grateful for their support.

‘We are fighting for the NHS. We want to be able to provide the highest possible care for the public, which is not possible with the contract that the government is imposing.

‘Everyone should come out and join the conversation. As it stands there are not enough doctors to properly staff the NHS, and more are set to leave as a result of the contract.’

At Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow north west London, busworkers joined the junior doctors’ picket line. Jamil Abbasi said: ‘I am a Unite member and was union rep for my bus garage in North Harrow. We organised a few strikes to fight for our Olympic bonus in 2012.

‘Junior doctors work for low pay. When they leave university, their starting salary is £22,000. They used to have free accommodation for the first year. The Tory government took that away. The junior doctors need as much support as they can get. We need strike action from busmen, postmen, firemen etc. All the busworkers in my depot support the junior doctors. We must all strike together in a general strike to save our NHS.’

Dr. Bennet Woodland said: ‘Doctors require a balanced work/life like anyone else to provide good healthcare for patients. You want your doctors on night shift to be bright and awake so they can make safe clinical decisions. The imposition of the contract removes these safeguards and will put patients in harm’s way.’

Junior doctor Malvike Gulah said: ‘We are fighting for the NHS. We have the strongest healthcare union and if we fall, everyone else including the structure of the NHS falls behind us. We need to be listened to. We are fighting for our patients and our NHS.’

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