‘Get rid of all privatised companies’ urge the striking Junior Doctors

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A lively picket line of Junior Doctors outside Maudsley Hospital yesterday

Junior doctors manned a lively and determined picket outside the Maudsley Hospital in south London yesterday, determined to defend their patients and the NHS.

Laith Alexander, junior doctor manning the picket at Maudsley Hospital yesterday, told News Line: ‘I think it is quite sad and damning of the government that doctors have to stand on picket lines instead of looking after patients

‘The government won’t get round the table and negotiate meaningfully, despite many years of cuts, low morale amongst junior doctors.

‘It’s a false economy that they are not negotiating because the cost of doctors repeatedly going out on strike, would have already paid for our pay restoration.

‘None of the junior doctors want to strike. We all want to work and care for our patients.

‘But the working conditions in the NHS are intolerable and that is another issue in this strike as well as our pay.

‘Many doctors are fed up and are leaving to go abroad.

‘The general sense amongst the doctors is we are getting to an end game now where something needs to change, and if it doesn’t change then the NHS will deteriorate more and more.

‘Keeping the NHS, ensuring it is fit for the future is a “long game” and governments only think “short term”, the term which they are in office.

‘What must ensure NHS investment is the long term.

‘Attempts to ring-fence the NHS against austerity hasn’t worked because the population of older people has increased, medicine has advanced and the demands on the NHS have increased, so just ring fencing is inadequate.

‘There needs to be much bigger increases in the NHS budget.

‘The government just does not think about the long term.

‘And with regards to the junior doctors strike, it has become a political stance. The government don’t want to be seen to capitulate to a union, because of a bizarre sense of anti-unionism and they don’t want to lose face.

‘Other workers have been coming out. The nurses should definitely come out on strike again because their pay offer was derisory, so for the working class it is a battle all the way, and a general strike is not a bad idea.’

Dave Scott came down to the picket line with his toddler granddaughter to support the pickets.

He said: ‘The National Health Service is falling apart because we are not attracting doctors and we are not keeping doctors.

‘The state is paying them rubbish money. And until they do something about that – and the current pay offer is not going to do anything about that – the hospital service, the GP service is going to continue falling apart.

‘Get rid of the privatised companies inside our health service who are mopping up public funds unnecessarily.

‘Stop instituting continual change in the service by management – one set of targets and then a different set of targets completely distorting the service.

‘Get rid of the internal market which is mopping up huge amounts of administrative hours which could better be spent on front line services.’

Gareth Price, BMA rep and junior doctor at St George’s University Hospital in Tooting, south London, spoke to News Line: ‘There is great enthusiasm for our strike, although we would rather be doing our job.

‘We are concerned about long term sustainability of the NHS. Of course pay is the immediate issue, but that and the conditions of work are causing lots of doctors to leave for Australia or New Zealand where pay is much better and the hours are not crazy like here.

‘We always look after the safety of our patients, so it’s not the strikes that cause the problems with waiting lists. It’s the problems in the NHS that cause the strikes.’

Tom Merriwether junior doctor at Homerton hospital said: ‘As a junior doctor I’m sick and tired of having to take strike action because this government are not listening to people who work in the NHS and public sector.

‘We’ve been on strike for 6 or 7 months and the offers are getting higher and public support is getting stronger.

‘We’ll keep going until we get pay restoration. This is a broader battle in the NHS and public sector and we’re not going anywhere until we’ve achieved our aims.’