Junior doctors from south and east London joined in the biggest demonstration in the capital on Tuesday after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s efforts to persuade doctors to call off their strike failed.
Across the country junior doctors, all members of the British Medical Association, protested over government plans to increase their working hours and issue new contracts.
Although the need for safer working hours and conditions for junior doctors was jointly agreed between the BMA and the government, medical professionals taking part in the protest said the proposed rates and unsocial hours were unacceptable.
Natasha Behl-Gupta, a local GP, said: “We haven’t come here asking for a pay rise. We are just asking that our hours and our work is looked up to and valued, and that we are paid for that work.”
Video: Steve Choi
Junior doctors said they were marching to secure reasonable shift lengths, night shifts and working hours. They were joined by workers from other unions who share the doctors’ aims.
An ASLEF union member said: “The NHS will last, as long as people are willing to fight for it. I want the NHS to be lasting, until my child and grandchildren arrive. As long as people are willing to fight for the NHS it will survive. If people don’t stand up and fight it’s dead.”
The strike underlined concerns about the NHS’s long-term future.
Members of the public signed the petition to support the junior doctors’ strike. Pic: Hsin-Jui Lin
Dr Lina Carmona, a Columbian national, said she is worried that the government proposal would put many people off pursuing medical careers, and that it will be the biggest loss for the public: “I am a woman, a mum and I am an academic. If this contract goes forward it will affect me greatly. My pay will be frozen and I am researching cancer.
“We need more women in medicine in general. This is not going to encourage women to join medicine. The NHS is a jewel. People here get the best care all the time, regardless of who you are and where you come from. It is amazing and we have to save it. If we didn’t protect, who will take care of the NHS?”
Another strike has been called for January 26, this time for 48 hours. Talks to avert it are due to start on Thursday.
Follow Hsin-Jui Lin on Twitter: @HlinHlin0317