‘Claps don’t pay the bills!’ – insist striking junior doctors

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Yesterday’s determined picket of St Thomas’ Hospital by junior doctors with ROB LAURENSON (far right)

‘CLAPS don’t pay the bills!’ chanted over 100 junior doctors outside St Thomas’ Hospital in central London opposite the Houses of Parliament yesterday morning, with passing cars and buses enthusiastically tooting their support.

Mass pickets were also held outside Manchester Royal Infirmary and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham as thousands of junior doctors in England continue their current five-day strike in defence of the NHS which began last Friday and is due to end at 11.59pm tomorrow.

Robert Laurenson, Joint Chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, told  News Line: ‘This is our 10th strike action in this round.

‘The Secretary of State offered to meet us and said that she had another offer for us.

‘But 20 days later it was a junior minister who came to tell us there was no further offer available.

‘We offered to suspend the strikes in exchange for more time.

‘However, the Secretary of State declined.

‘We have to conclude that the government don’t want to end the strikes.

‘Waiting lists are going up but pay is going down.

‘Our mandate runs out soon and we will be re-balloting.

‘The results of the ballot will be in on 20th March and we expect a result in favour of further action.

‘Our position is that we will continue our action until we get a credible offer.

‘The Treasury has actually had an increase in revenue, and the tax burden is the highest it’s been for many years, so they can’t argue that it’s unaffordable.’

Another junior doctor, Hannah Knowles, said: ‘They need to re-negotiate again. It’s about the retention of staff.

‘When I qualified in 2010, my pay wasn’t bad, but it hasn’t increased since then.

‘On top of that, there have been changes to our pension scheme. Junior doctors used to get free accommodation for the first year. That’s been taken away.

‘Medical cases are more complicated and there are staff shortages. Anyone qualifying now is even worse off.’

Sarah, who works in Newcastle, and Rebecca, also on the picket line, said: ‘We will be here until we get a proper offer.

‘We want the NHS to survive and develop into the future. The pay and conditions of staff is an important part of that.

‘Whoever wins the election needs to make sure that the pay of NHS workers is increased.’

Junior doctor Abigail told News Line: ‘I think we should keep up local pickets to give the public a chance to talk to junior doctors. The media headlines report that we get high salaries so why do we need more money.

‘But most of us took out huge loans to get qualified and repayments take 10% of our wages, then professional fees are over £1,000.

‘A doctor’s job is so energy consuming and we are so time-poor we don’t have time to budget well or plan meals in an efficient way.

‘Sometimes you are working 12-hour shifts back to back and have no time to sort out your life and you do need a bit more money then.

‘A while ago Sunak was going on about training more medical students, but we have got medical students getting degrees who cannot get a job because there are not enough training jobs.

‘They have sold the student debt to private companies and the interest rate has gone up. I have got £82,000 of student debt and the interest has gone up from £1,500 to £3,000.’

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