Sussex junior doctors strike for second time over contract

Doctors strike outside Worthing Hospital. Pictures by Eddie Mitchell SUS-161201-094403001
Doctors strike outside Worthing Hospital. Pictures by Eddie Mitchell SUS-161201-094403001

Junior doctors across Sussex have joined picket lines for the second time – in protest over pay and conditions.

Hundreds of operations have been postponed and rescheduled in response to the 24-hour strike which started at 8am this morning (January 10).

The medics, many holding banners with the message ‘not safe, not fair’, are proposing to provide emergency care only during the walk out.

Talks between the BMA and the government broke down following a 24-hour strike on January 12. On February 1, the BMA announced its intention to strike on February 10, as planned, but changed the level of service it is asking junior doctors to withdraw from a full walk out.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs St Richard’s in Chichester and Worthing Hospital, said today’s action will be affecting more than 500 patients.

Dr George Findlay, medical director, said: “The safety of our patients is our number one priority and while we are doing all we can to maintain services it has been necessary to postpone some outpatient appointments, as well as day-case and inpatient operations.”

Trusts have warned A&E departments will also be working under significant pressure as the strike continues.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, has asked the public to make sure A&E is free for emergencies – encouraging them to use NHS 111, the Urgent Treatment Centre at Crawley Hospital and Brighton Station Health Centre.

A spokeswoman for Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust, which runs East Surrey Hospital said: “Our teams of consultant and speciality doctors will be working and providing care during the strike alongside our nurses, therapists and other teams across the trust.”

East Sussex Healthcare Trust, which runs Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital, has joined other trusts in apologising for any disruption caused to patients.

The Department of Health said GP surgeries will be open as normal.

Following a ballot of more than 37,000 junior doctors in England, more than 99 per cent voted in favour of industrial action, and 98 per cent for full strike action.

Negotiations between the BMA and NHS Employers for new consultants and junior doctors’ contracts began in October 2013.

Doctors are arguing the changes – proposed to improve seven-day NHS services — will result in a pay cut and will be unsafe for patients.

The new contract proposes an 11 per cent rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

However, the number of hours during the week which are classed as ‘unsociable’ and therefore better paid – are being cut. This includes Saturday.

The government also proposes to scrap guaranteed pay increases, linked to time in the job, and replace them with a system where junior doctors progress through different stages in training.

It is believed the BMA put offered a proposal during talks that would have seen doctors’ basic pay rise by half the 11 per cent offered by the government in return for Saturday not be treated as a normal working day. However the offer was rejected.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is arguing the BMA is the ‘only reason’ a solution to the dispute has not found, and there is mounting speculation the government might impose the contract.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “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.”

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