Video: Frances Rankin, Eir Nolsoe
Local residents were keen to show their support today as junior doctors once again formed a picket line outside the University Lewisham Hospital.
The 48-hour strike, which is a nationwide response to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposed new contract, saw patients and doctors standing side by side armed with banners and badges.
The new contract combines a basic pay increase of an average of 13.5 per cent with a new definition of what constitutes as unsociable work hours. Standard working hours will increase from 60 to 90 hours per week and doctors will be required to work until 10pm every night of the week apart from Sunday. Pay increases are also going to change from being linked to the amount of time in the job to progression through set training schemes.
Junior doctor and BMA representative Shruti Patel said: “The Lewisham locals have been absolutely fantastic. In a way they’re our role models, because they’re the only people who have beaten Jeremy Hunt in the past (by preventing the closure of the Lewisham A&E).”
Morgan O’Brien, a 78-year old retired teacher who lives in Lewisham, was supporting the junior doctors on the picket line and intends to do so at “every other picket line they will ever have”.
He said: “To me the National Health Service is everything. If a doctor is saying their work is becoming unsafe because of the new contract, then I will listen to that doctor in the same way I would listen to them if they said something about my health.”
This is the third time junior doctors are doing a walkout in 2016. Jeremy Hunt announced on March 4 that the new contract will be implemented in August despite the dispute. The full details of the contract are yet to be released.
More than 5,000 operations have been cancelled in England due to the strike. Lewisham hospital did not have the exact figures of how many of their junior doctors were on strike. In a brief statement about the strikes they said: “All appointments have been rearranged and patients were informed beforehand.”
The next walkouts are due to take place on April 6-8 and 26-28.
By Eir Nolsoe and Frances Rankin