The Royal London Hospital was today host to the first junior doctor strike in 40 years, after the British Medical Association failed to reach an agreement with the government, reports Callum Thomas
“Tried and tested plans” are today being put into action to limit disruption within the NHS due to the overwhelming number of doctors who chose to strike, but the strike is dominating the headlines and has put the emergency state of the NHS at the centre of national discussion.
The industrial action, which began at 8am this morning and is due to be underway for 24 hours, saw mainstream media gather to report on the NHS’ struggle against government cuts which will increase the amount of hours which junior doctors are required to work anti - social hours.
The strike comes only a few days after thousands of nurses, midwives and other NHS professionals took to the streets of Westminster to march against proposed plans to cut bursaries.
The government want to cut the number of hours classed as “unsociable”, for which junior doctors can claim extra pay, and claim to be offering an 11% increase increase to compensate. In reality, these changes will amount to a reduction in wages and an increase in working hours. The BMA are also concerned that other changes to contracts are paving the way for removing safeguards which are currently in place to punish hospitals who overwork doctors.
I spoke with Rachel Parker of Globe Town GP Surgery who outlined her disbelief at the governments plans, saying she believes this is “a thinly veiled attack from the government on the NHS as a whole and that ultimately we are snowballing away from having a national health service and towards a privatised system”. In a bold plea to Jeremy Hunt, Rachel said “If you really believe patient safety should come first then you should listen to us because our main concern is patient safety”.
Vishnu Parameshwaran, of The Royal London Hospital ‘Acute Medicine Unit”, told me why he felt so passionately about the strike today and his views on the Health Secretary’s contract proposals. He explained his actions in saying that he “feels the contracts will be unsafe for patients, unsafe for doctors and ultimately begin the destabilisation of the NHS”. When asked if he felt such changes might affect applications to training as a junior doctor he said “it already had” and that “applications have seen an 11% decrease…only 52% of people who had completed F2 training had applied to carry on with further training”. These figures illustrate the scale of the crisis for the NHS, and paint a sombre picture of staff morale.
In an escalation of tension, doctors in Sandwell Hospital, West Bromwich, have been ordered to come back to work due to a supposed “level 4” incident. Doctors are saying this is a ploy to weaken the strike and the picket lines there are still up. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is apparently refusing interviews.
Junior doctors are asking everyone to get down to their local hospitals to support them today.