Junior doctors' picket Junior doctors' picket line

The junior doctors have silenced the government. Reports from Whipps Cross Hospital in London and a picket line turned protest in Brighton

Whipps Cross Hospital

Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone is a busy district hospital. Used in The first and second world wars for wounded troops, it was today the scene of an affirmative strike by junior doctors

Doctors have not been on an all out strike since the 1970’s. I was on the picket line with around thirty junior doctors to find out exactly why they took action today. The mood was one of steely determination.

It was, of course, the overwhelming warmth and enthusiastic reception of the British public that made today’s strike such a success here in Waltham Forest. We had stalls in the canteen where large numbers of staff came in to show their solidarity to those striking, patients and relatives arriving to have their pictures taken with the doctors and hundreds of signatures for petitions.

I caught up with Dr Nikki Fitzgerald, the BMA Local Negotiating Committee representative who is responsible for organising the strike at Whipps Cross today. Nikki said “We are out here today because of the governments failure to progress with our contract negotiations and their lack of interest in our serious concerns over the safety of the new contracts which they are threatening to impose. They will take us much more seriously off the back of our action today”.

When asked what she thought of Jeremy Hunts comments today, that he believes this is the best way to provide a safe service and the best health care for all, Nikki continued “Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly shown that he doesn’t understand what is best for patients or doctors”. This would certainly seem true in light of the Health Secretary’s labelling of today’s strike as “wholly unnecessary”.  

In a final comment Nikki expressed her zeal for the unity which we were seeing, commenting “I commend Waltham Forest and the local area. They have been incredibly supportive of this action. They are so supportive and grateful for the hospital and what it has done for them.”

There was also fantastic support at Walthamstow & Leytonstone stations where there was a ‘come and meet the doctor’ event which was a superb way to bring these issues up with the public and convey the core of the matter to them on a personal level. With support from members of the public and various unions bringing solidarity to the cause, and even contributions of food and drink to the picket line, it was truly consoling to know such fixed and industrious support exists within the community.

Royal Sussex Hospital

The picket line at Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton was a vibrant and dynamic expression of support for the Junior doctors. It brought together a very wide range of activists and ordinary people. There were representatives from the University and College Lecturers union, the People’s Assembly, members of the Labour Party, and lots of other political organisations. But also, importantly there were also lots of ordinary students and locals turning up to show solidarity.

This rallying of the community around the junior doctors in this round of the fight to save our NHS has been characterised by creativity and common endeavour. The placards and banners were fantastic, and some students brought several bags of sandwiches and snacks to share out which they had spent the whole night making before hand.

The morning was a real display of unity, diversity, and it shows the potential for the future of the movement of resistance to austerity. Morale was high and there was incredibly positive vibe at the picket. Despite the decimation to the NHS and other parts of the welfare state that is being generated by government policy, there is clearly the potential to grow the movement of opposition. 

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