Junior doctors walk out in third strike over contract
Junior doctors working at Queen’s and King George Hospitals are joining a national strike in a row with the Government over a new contract.
More than 5,000 operations and procedures across England have been cancelled ahead of the 48-hour strike which began at 8am this morning (Wednesday).
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced he will impose the contract on junior doctors - everyone up to consultant level - after months of talks with the British Medical Association (BMA) failed to reach a resolution.
Junior doctors will provide emergency care only today and tomorrow with two further 48-hour strikes planned from 8am on April 8 and April 26.
Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Hospitals Trust which runs Queen’s Hospital Romford and King George Hospital Goodmayes, said: “Our overriding priority is to ensure we continue to provide high standards of patient safety and care at all times.
“We are contacting all patients whose appointment or elective surgery will be affected, and we are working hard to put in place measures which will enable us to make real-time assessments of staffing levels on the strike days, so we can ensure a quick response to any issues which develop.
“Junior doctors are a very important part of our multi-disciplinary teams and we value the huge contribution they make to patient care.”
The third strike by the BMA comes as an Ipsos MORI poll for BBC News found 65 per cent of members of the public support the doctors’ cause.
The survey found most people still think the Government is most at fault for the dispute, but a rising number believe equal blame should be shared by the Government and doctors’ leaders.
Dr Anne Rainsberry, national incident director for NHS England, said: “This is clearly going to be a difficult couple of days. A 48-hour strike will put significantly more pressure on the NHS and the cumulative effect of these recurring strikes is likely to take a toll.
“The safety and care of patients is always our number one priority and staff across the NHS are doing all they can to minimise the impact on patients of the action.”
Where possible, patients are being asked to contact their GP, seek advice from their local pharmacist, call 111 or check the NHS Choices website.
In an emergency, people should still call 999 or go to A&E.
The major sticking point has been over weekend pay and whether Saturdays should attract extra “unsocial” payments.
Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attracts a premium rate of pay for junior doctors.
The Government wanted the Saturday day shift to be paid at a normal rate in return for a hike in basic pay.
The BMA rejected this and urged Mr Hunt to reduce the offer of basic pay and instead have better premium rates on Saturdays.
The imposed contract, which is due to come into force in August, has an increase in basic salary of 13.5%.
Under the new arrangements, Mr Hunt said no doctor working contracted hours would see a pay cut while too many night shifts and long shifts will be limited.
But 7am to 5pm on Saturdays will be regarded as a normal working day.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Patients have so far seen more than 19,000 operations cancelled as a result of the BMA’s irresponsible and unjustified industrial action.
“The new contract, 90 per cent of which was agreed with the BMA and endorsed by senior NHS leaders, is a very good deal for doctors and the NHS.”