Junior hospital doctors at Royal London join national walk out as biggest strike in NHS history begins
- Credit: Archant
Junior doctors have begun their two-day strike at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel along with NHS doctors throughout the country.
The daytime dispute—the biggest walk-out in the 68-year history of the NHS—started at 8am and runs until 5pm this evening, then resumes again tomorrow morning until 5pm.
Only consultants are working, with junior doctors organising pickets in Whitechapel and handing out leaflets to the public outside stations and in street markets across the East End later today explaining the industrial action.
The dispute is over new working contracts from April, aimed at improving hospital cover at weekends.
But it means more weekend work for junior doctors already stretched to being on duty up to 100 hours a week with reduced weekend pay.
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“The hours are challenging—I work a 100-hour week,” Royal London BMA rep Dr Emily Mills told the East London Advertiser.
“The new contract removes safeguards that restrict the number of hours we are on duty.
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“Tired doctors make mistakes and can be more dangerous for patients—it’s a matter of patient safety.”
Only consultant care is continuing in hospitals, while junior doctors are on pickets and out meeting the public.
“The vast majority of public support us,” Dr Mills added. “They know we’re trying to save the future of the NHS and save it from privatisation.
“All the consultants at the Royal London support us and have been coming out recording messages of support.”
The junior doctors are campaigning outside Bethnal Green Underground station 12.45 to 1.15pm, on the traffic island outside Mile End station 12.30-1.15pm, outside Jubilee Street GP practice in Commercial Road at 1.30pm, the traffic Island on the Limehouse junction of Commercial Road and Burdett Road at 1.30pm and Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market at 1.15pm.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt accused union leaders of trying to “blackmail” the Government with strike action.
He could only call a halt to the action by “abandoning a manifesto promise that the British people voted on to have a seven-day NHS” in last year’s General election, he insisted.
But the doctors’ union, the BMA, said doctors want to protect patients, which is why it gave NHS trusts several weeks’ notice to plan for the two-day industrial action.
It was “the responsibility of trusts to put in robust plans to protect emergency services” to minimise the impact, the BMA insisted. The action would not include dire emergencies or major incidents.
More than 125,000 appointments and routine operations have been cancelled throughout the country and need to be rearranged as a result of the action.