Medics at Kings Mill Hospital say they are delighted with the amunt of public support they’re reciving as two straight days of strike action started today (Wednesday, March 9).
Junior medics at the town’s main medical centre, Kings Mill Hospital in Sutton staged their third walkout this year after the ‘disappointing’ news that health secretary Jeremy Hunt was abandoning talks.
Some 120 training doctors left work today for the first of two days of strike action, with many braving the cold to picket outside the hospital.
The strike takes place as it emerges that UK poll data swings overwhelmingly in their favour, with the majority of those surveyed saying they blame Jeremy Hunt – not the doctors – for the strikes and disruption to NHS services across the country.
An Ipsos MORI poll last week showed 65 per cent support doctors going on strike, and 57 per cent said they blamed the government for the stand-off.
Talks with union the British Medical Assocition (BMA) broke down after Hunt vetoed an agreement to change contracts but excluse saturdays from new normal working patterns. The Health Secretary has been trying to include the day
within normal ‘sociable hours’, and pay normal wages, in his efforts to bring about a seven-day NHS.
And he claims to be open to negotionion on this final sticking point, but the junior doctors say they’ve seen no evidence of this.
BMA co-ordinator at Kings Mill, junior medic Chris Episkopos, 23, said: “There hasn’t been any indication of that.
“The BMA have been in negotiations with the government since 2012 to make contract changes to the junior doctor’s contracts.
“They want to change the normal working hours to span 90 hours instead of 60 as they are now - and this will mean extending our days and including Saturdays within normal shifts.
“It’s effectively a 30 per cent pay cut.”Joniour
Doctors earn a basic starting salary of £22,000 said Chris, and then unsocial hours are added on top, but with extended normal days, they say the stretched staff numbers will be worked even harder.
But union members are all eager to convince the public that it’s not ‘just abotu the money’. They say changes are unfare for doctors, and unsafe for patients.
Chris added: “They’re also trimming a lot of rules that prevent you working more hours than is safely acceptable.
King’s Mill is a ‘worst case scenario’ where pushing doctors to their limits could have devestating consequnces, added some of the doctors. The facility has been in special measures since it was found too many patients were dying at the Sutton health centre – and as well as inherent financial burdens from its PFI arrangement, Chris says there simply isn’t enough staff and wards are already stretched to breaking point.
“We’re chronically understaffed.
“Two weekends ago I was the only doctor on a ward and two others had been taken off. I was looking after 150 patients without support, and in that situation you’re bleeper is going off constantly, it’s everything you can do to just keep them all alive.”
And the changes will stretch doctors even more, as many have already been turned off the idea of working for the NHS due to the conditions, so with a recruiting crisis the shifts go around what few doctos there are, or expensive agency workers.
Second year doctor Naomi Lashar, 26. said: “I know people who are put off by this,” she added. “They’re all going to Australia where the working conditions are better.”
Nottinghamshire Tory MP, Mark Spencer (Sherwood) said the break down in talks was the fault of the union.
He said: “This is all about the BMA frankly refusing to resolve this through talks and pushing ahead with industrial action that has a negative impact on healthcare and patients across our whole area, and adding to the pressures on our hospitals. The Government are doing everything they can to mitigate the impact on patients, and obviously in the absence of the BMA being willing to have a genuine negotiation on this we can’t just continue with strike after strike.
“We have a strong desire to resolve the one remaining issue of pay for unsocial hours – as both parties agreed to do with ACAS back in November. The contract prioritises patient safety and offers junior doctors’ safer working hours, with the majority seeing a pay rise and nobody working legal hours seeing their pay cut. We urged the BMA to resolve this through talks not strikes; if they want to talk then the Health Secretary is sat at the negotiating table ready for them, but they can’t just hold a gun to his head and say ‘back down or we’ll go on strike’ when it puts patient care at risk’.”
Gloria De Piero, Labour MP for Ashfield, said: “The Government’s handling of the whole issue of new contracts for junior doctors has been an absolute shambles.
“Everyone agrees that reform of the junior doctors’ current contract is needed but I am totally against this new contract being imposed on them.
“It will cause morale to plunge and could lead to more strike action which will impact upon everyone who works for the NHS or uses the NHS.
Juniors are saying that ‘tired doctors make mistakes’ and some even claim the pressure of the job, and the need to keep up staffing levels on a skeleton crew mean they’re driven to forego a sick day because they know it’ll impact how a ward is run.
“Jeremy Hunt needs to start listening to what junior doctors have to say and get back round the negotiating table to reach an agreement that ensures patients get the best and safest treatment possible from our health service.”
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust said a number of appointments had to be cancelled over the next two days, while emergency services continue unchanged with only doctors on routine wards taking action.
They added: “Across all of Sherwood Forest Hospitals, the total number of operations cancelled is 18. The total number of patient affected by outpatient appointment cancellations is 68.”
Ask your doctor:
Lizzie Moriarty, 29 from Belper said: “We come to work even when we’re sick because there’s no back up to bridge the gap - obviously we don’t come in if it’s something serious or contagious, but we work at full pelt all the time and even when you’re ill you come in because it would impact on your colleagues.”
Junior medic Maya Kessler, 28 from Derby is a core medical trainee. She said: “We’re already a stretched service. We’re all trainees and we love our work, but our training is suffering because of the hours - I’ supposed to go to classes but there is so few of us we can’t leave the wards.”
Christine Peter, 26, agreed: “The job is physically and emotionally demanding and there’s no time to relax so you end up burnt out.”