Junior doctors’ fourth strike

JUNIOR doctors began a 48-hour strike action on Wednesday, their fourth strike in their long-running dispute with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over the new contracts he is trying to impose on them.

They still provided emergency life-saving cover but if the dispute is not resolved they will withdraw even that in a fifth strike planned for the 26th April.

This week more than 5,000 operations had to be rearranged as well as many more clinic appointments.

The British Medical Association (BMA) blamed the Government for the ongoing strikes. “We deeply regret any disruption this action will cause to patients, but it is because we believe this contract would be bad for the delivery of patient care in the long term that we are taking this action”, said Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA’s junior doctor committee.

“By pursuing its current course, the Government risks alienating a generation of doctors. If it continues to ignore junior doctors’ concerns at a time when their morale is already at rock bottom, doctors may vote with their feet, which will clearly affect the long-term future of the NHS and the care it provides.”

During the strike junior doctors held picket lines outside their hospitals and some toured London, speaking at rallies and meetings from the back of a fire truck, which was lent to them by the Fire Brigades Union.

Many unions have voiced support for the junior doctors, including Unite, RMT and the National Union of Teachers (NUT). The NUT last month at its conference in Brighton voted to plan its own strikes against compulsory academisation of all schools in coordination with future junior doctors’ strikes.

A Care2 initiated petition signed by over 100,000 people in support of the Junior Doctors was being delivered to the Department of Health in Whitehall by Doctors from London hospitals.

Student nurses were also there staging a “die-in” in protest at plans to axe the NHS Bursary, which they say will only exacerbate the NHS staffing crisis and price ordinary people out of training.

Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, a West London doctor, said: “We are telling Mr Hunt that this contract will put patients’ lives at risk by stretching an already understaffed workforce even thinner across seven days, in a chronically underfunded system that is already at breaking point.”

Dr Matteo De Martino, a doctor working in the NHS for 4 years, said: “These ‘Meet the Doctors’ events are extremely important to us. They have given us the opportunity to meet the public who we look after 24/7 so we can reassure people they remain safe during the strike period.

“We want everyone to understand that safety and quality of care are our main concerns, and these fundamental principles of care are now under threat from this unplanned and unfunded manifesto promise which Mr Cameron seems stubbornly insistent on imposing.”