‘We’re striking to defend the NHS!’ – Junior Doctors

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Striking junior doctors on the picket line at UCH Hospital in central London yesterday

‘WE’RE striking to defend the NHS,’ doctors said on the over 200-strong rally of junior doctors outside University College Hospital in central London yesterday.

There were powerful British Medical Association rallies outside selected hospitals across England yesterday, as Junior Doctors defied Tory attacks and threats and stepped up their fight for a pay rise to stem the exodus of doctors from their ranks.

Today and tomorrow there will be Junior Doctor pickets outside hospitals all over England.

In London today, mass pickets and rallies take place at South London and Maudsley Hospital Denmark Hill, SE5 8AB, 8.30am-12.30pm, at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, SW17 0QT 8.30am-12.30pm and at Homerton Hospital, E9 6SR,12pm-1.30pm

Tomorrow, there will be a mass rally and picket at Royal London Hospital 8.30am-11.30am.

BMA Junior Doctors Committee co-chair Rob Laurenson told News Line at UCLH yesterday morning: ‘This is the eighth round of strike action. We had an agreed deadline with the government during the latest negotiations. They failed to provide a credible offer so we had to call strike action to focus their minds.

‘The government’s priorities are all over the place. We’ve been backed into a corner, we’ve had a 26% pay cut over 15 years, we have a workforce crisis.

‘We should never have let it get this bad. We support a free at the point of access and publicly funded and publicly run health service.

‘That requires doctors, but the NHS is increasingly spending money on private pet projects driven by the government.

‘This is a pay dispute so that public sector doctors can continue treating the public and so that the public continues to have access to high quality health care.

‘The Tories want more privatisation to suppress wages and have it on the cheap.’

Royal London Hospital BMA Rep, Rebecca Lissmann said: ‘We’re demonstrating today for fair pay for junior doctors. The job of all health workers is tough.

‘I stand together with my colleagues of the Royal London – doctors, nurses and other colleagues who are striking.’

Intensive care doctor and anaesthetist, Samson Kendall said: ‘I’ve been a doctor for nine years. Waiting times get longer and resources get less.

‘I’m striking not only to restore pay but for the right to strike and to protect our patients. And I’m striking to challenge the privatisation of the NHS, which the Tories are pretending they are not doing.

‘I would support a general strike to defend the NHS and to tell the Conservatives I don’t condone their actions and policies – attempts to privatise the NHS, hostilities to refugees, their disregard for social welfare and their neo-liberalist agenda.’

ENT surgeon Lily Huang, told News Line: ‘I’m striking because I want doctors to get pay restoration. We’ve had pay erosion of 26% and austerity, while MPs have had 10 pay rises since 2010.

‘We are losing staff and talent to other industries and other countries. Waiting lists are up and patients are suffering.

‘It’s not good enough. The Tories are not investing in the NHS, we’re fighting for the NHS.’

Speaking on the picket line outside Nottingham Hospital, Tal Ellenbogen of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said: ‘For patients and staff on any day of the year of the 2023 version of the NHS is that there are not enough doctors around.

‘We see our colleagues leaving left, right and centre due to 15 years of pay cuts and that means that we are covering more patients than we should, sometimes as many as 150 patients on a night shift.

‘But more importantly for patients, it means they are waiting around longer, staying in trollies in A&Es. They are not getting the care that they deserve because there aren’t enough doctors around.

We want the government to restore our pay. Just get back to where we were in 2008, a time when the waiting list was only 2.3 million, not 7.2 million, which was what it was before we started striking.

‘What we want from the government is to restore our pay, work with us, work for a better NHS, a more well-staffed NHS, an NHS where patients wait a week or two to see a consultant, not months and years, an NHS where we don’t see patients on trolleys but we see them in cubicles with dignity, an NHS where patients aren’t stuck in an ambulance for 10 hours.

‘Last year we had 500 people a week dying in emergency departments because of excessive waits. That’s three months before we started striking.

‘If we did nothing that would be like an airline having a jumbo jet going down every single week and then ignoring it. We can’t ignore this.’

He went on: ‘What we’ve been offered so far, 8.8 plus 3% just about matches the rate of inflation for the past year of 11.4%, so it’s stopping the pay cuts, but it’s not reversing the past 14 years and that’s not going to do much for reversing the trend of tens of thousands of doctors leaving the NHS.’
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