Junior doctors from Pilgrim Hospital have joined others in Lincoln, Skegness and Spalding, in a 24-hour strike action across Lincolnshire today (Wednesday) in protest over the Government’s proposed changes to NHS contracts.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has organised the action in which Junior doctors in England aim to provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am.
It follows protests in London and Bristol, in which doctors and the public marched in solidarity against Government plans for a new contract.
Mohammed Sulleman, a junior doctor at Pilgrim Hospital said: “I don’t think anyone here is denitying the fact the NHS needs improvement. We need to look at it and improve it for patient care.”
However, he said he, and others, felt the changes that were being made would lead to unsafe working by staff at hospitals, particularly if other roles’ contracts were similarly changed.
Dharsicka Nadarahsah, the BMA rep for Pilgrim Hospital, said that Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt needed to ‘look after the people who look after the patients’.
She said that when he accused the organisation of being misleading she felt that anyone ‘could see it was simple mathematics’.
Mr Sulleman added: “We are as junior doctors stricking but we’re not just doing it for ourselves.
“Different members of the team are going to come up for contract renewal. We want to improve patient care but we don’t accept the way that Jeremy Hunt is going about it.”
He said he believed the changes will have far reaching effects, including them leading to less people signing up to be junior doctors in a few years time.
He said: “We will be a workforce that will be pushed, that will be struggling and that will be thin on the ground.”
All the strikers at Pilgrim stressed they had not abandoned their roles as doctors to take part in the strike and, if needed, said they would be available for emergency action.
Mark Brassington, Chief Operating Officer for United Lincolnshire’s Hospitals Trust, which runs Pilgrim said: “We have plans in place for the strike action 10 February to make sure services continue to run safely and as smoothly as possible, and to protect the safety and welfare of all our patients.
“Our plans are robust and will prioritise patients with the greatest health needs and emergency care. We aim to keep disruption to patients to a minimum.
“If the strike goes ahead, we will have to cancel a small number of patient appointments and operations at Pilgrim, Lincoln, Skegness and Spalding hospitals. However, the majority of appointments and operations will not be affected. No services will be affected at Grantham.
“We will attempt to contact every patient whose appointment is cancelled and to re-book. Any patient who is not contacted should attend their appointment as planned.
“If the strike is called off, we ask patients to attend their appointments as originally planned. For the latest information see our website and local media on the day.
“All of our emergency care services will be running as usual, but members of the public are reminded to only attend A&E if it is a genuine emergency and to consider alternative options for minor ailments, such as visiting your pharmacist, walk in centre or urgent care centre.”
BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana earlier told junior doctors: “Last weekend, thousands of us took to the streets of London and Bristol to show that our fight for a properly negotiated contract continues. [Today], we raise our voices again, on hundreds of picket lines across England.’
He added: “With thousands of junior doctors attending more than 160 pickets and ‘meet the doctor’ events across England, today’s action is a resounding rejection of the Government’s threat to impose an unfair contract, in which junior doctors have no confidence.
“We deeply regret the disruption caused to patients, but this is a fight for the long-term delivery of high-quality patient care, for junior doctors’ working lives and for ability of the NHS to rise to the enormous challenges facing it.”