Junior medics walked out for the first time in 40 years in south and east London hospitals as part of nationwide protests over proposed government changes to pay and contracts. Hundreds of operations and treatments were postponed because of a 24-hour walkout, which started at 8.00am after talks between doctors’ representatives at the British Medical Association and the government failed to reach agreement. Junior doctors from across the capital converged on a demonstration in central London.
A BMA spokesperson told Eastlondonlines that around the country there were 150 picket lines and 4,000 routine operations were postponed, with junior doctors providing emergency care only. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt praised doctors who had not heeded the strike call and claimed that 40% of junior doctors had worked normally, attacking the walkouts as “totally unnecessary.”
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said it had developed detailed plans to manage impact on services and ensure patient safety was maintained. People were urged to avoid coming to A&E unless it was an emergency. Junior doctors stood on the picket line from 8.30am and were joined by members of the public, despite the bitter temperatures. Louise Brown, Communications Manager for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said: “No operations were cancelled today but last week in preparation 11 in-patients and 20 cases were re-scheduled.”
Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock expressed his support on Twitter for all NHS staff, saying he and they had fought hard to save Lewisham Hospitals A&E department when planned closure was only stopped after a High Court action in August 2013.
— Steve Bullock (@mayorbullock) January 12, 2016
Croydon University Hospital had already postponed operations and cancelled 400 outpatients appointments ahead of the strike. Here too local residents joined protestors on the picket line. Croydon Health Services NHS Trust told patients they would call them directly if any further appointments were cancelled.
At Homerton University Hospital in Hackney officials advised patients to avoid A&E today, if possible. Several dozen junior doctors staged a protest and gave out leaflets outside the hospital, supported by Hackney Green Party. They also marched to Hackney Town Hall on Mare Street and gave out stickers to rail passengers outside Hackney Central Station.
A Facebook group called Tower Hamlets Keep Our NHS Public posted information about the strike taking place at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, urging other health workers and supporters from trade unions to join the protest which they said would also extend to “Meet the Doctor” events at nearby tube stations and other public spaces.
London Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry, who joined some of the doctors this morning, said: “We all know that junior doctors do not take strike action lightly, so if they feel they have no option because the government isn’t listening to them, we all ought to believe and support them.”
Here is a short picture slide show from the demonstration in central London.
Pictures by Hsin Jui Lin.
By Nina Lecourt and Katy Bailes
Follow Kaity Baiels on Twitter: @kaytchee
Follow Nina Lecourt on Twitter: @ninelecourt