Junior doctors’ full walkout makes history

Junior Doctors and their supporters demostrating in Lancaster
Junior Doctors and their supporters demostrating in Lancaster

Junior doctors in Lancaster and across the country are to embark on a full walkout for the first time in the history of the NHS.

Dr Helen Ivatt, a junior doctor at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary said none of the doctors wanted to carry out the strike on April 26 and 27 but that “we feel as if we have no other option”.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the escalation of industrial action by the British Medical Association (BMA) is “desperate and irresponsible” and would put patients in harm’s way.

But Dr Ivatt said: “Right from the first few weeks at medical school we learn our mantra of ‘first do no harm’, so by striking are we abandoning this core value?

“This is a question that many of us have grappled with over the past few months since a full walk out was announced by the BMA.

“My view is that my role, and that of my colleagues will be more than adequately filled by my extremely supportive consultants, thus if you turn up to A+E on April 26 or 27 it is likely you will be seen by a consultant rather than a junior.

“Yes, in turn, this will mean that less elective theatre lists and regular clinics will run and I and my colleagues apologise wholeheartedly for any inconvenience caused, but I also feel that the likelihood of harm coming to my patients and to the NHS as a whole if the contract is imposed is so great that I can’t afford not to strike, there is too much at stake.”

Dr Ivatt said that 98 per cent of the profession feel a new contract for junior doctors, due to come into force in August, is unsafe to patients, unfair to doctors and discriminates against women.

She said: “We dedicate our lives to the NHS, we ensure our patients get the care they deserve and need. Every doctor I know has a strong sense of vocation and is proud to work for the NHS. We know things aren’t perfect, we share in your frustrations at lengthy waiting times, inadequate resources and improperly staffed wards but at a time when NHS staff are working harder than ever, rather than negotiating change based on our first hand experience, the government has left us feeling demoralized and devalued by imposing an ill-advised contract.

“The NHS is already at breaking point due to years of underfunding and understaffing.

“The staffing crisis is not going away, and under the new contract it is going to get so much worse.

“You simply cannot stretch a five day elective service over seven days without extra funding and staff.

“If Mr Hunt wants a true seven day NHS then he must pay for it, test it and staff it, not force it through.”

The Department of Health spokesperson added: “If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.”

Junior doctors and teachers will be available for questions in Lancaster Market Square on Saturday April 23 from 11am – 2pm. There will be a picket outside the RLI between 8am and 12pm on April 26 and 27. Junior doctors Little Life Savers at Lancaster library, 11am-12pm April 27, and adult life support from 2pm.