By Jamie Richards, Chez Vitalis and Ella Tunstall
Junior doctors across the Eastlondonlines boroughs walked out today for the second of three days of strikes over pay.
Junior doctors belonging to the British Medical Association, walked out at 7am yesterday and will not resume working until Thursday. Hospitals affected included the Royal London in Whitechapel, Lewisham General Hospital and Homerton Hospital.
The BMA says the strikes are due to a 26% real terms pay cut for junior doctors over the last 15 years. Recently the fact that baristas at coffee chain Pret A Manger will be able to earn up to £14.10 an hour has come to light, as compared to the £14.09 an hour junior doctors make.
Around London and the rest of the country, routine appointments were cancelled and consultants took over many roles normally undertaken by junior doctors.
One of the most visible picket lines was at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, where members of the BMA formed a line of banners and signs outside the old hospital building directly opposite the busy tube station.
George, who denied to give a surname, is a second-year doctor and BMA representative. He told ELL: “In 2021, I graduated with over £90,000 in tuition fee loans, and have been struggling [with] working in London and affording to live in the capital”.
He continued: “I spend over half my money on rent. Junior doctors have had a paltry pay increase over the last 15 years, since 2008”. George said he and his colleagues want to be paid fairly for the work they do on the wards.
Mike, who also denclined to give a surname, is another junior doctor and BMA rep. He said that after 7 years of university and 6 years on the job he’s looking at 9 further years as a junior doctor due to the need for a PhD in his specialty.
He said: “We love our jobs, we love our patients, but more and more people are looking abroad because the offer is so much better”. He called the idea that junior doctors are exclusively young “a misconception”, with most doctors holding the title for 10 years at least.
“I’m not going to leave, but I find I can’t do my job because there’s not enough doctors. We have 10,000 medical vacancies in the UK… we need more doctors, training more medical students is a start, but we need to do everything we can to retain the doctors that we have already. We need to do more to support the doctors that are here right now”.
In neighbouring Hackney, junior doctors engaged in a large protest outside Homerton Hospital.
Craig, who declined to give a surname is one of the junior doctors striking. He told ELL: “I think it’s appalling. In Homerton we work so hard, and the fact we have to go out and strike for such a necessary job is ridiculous.”
“My neighbour who lives next door is also a doctor and he’s been struggling for years. The work the government is doing is not enough. They are allowing far too many people to profit from this crisis and our work is essential.”
Dianne Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington was among those who turned out to support the strikers. She said: “I stand with and support the strike of junior doctors. The media makes out that you are only in dispute because you want the money.”
“It’s first of all about compensating for how and why your salary has been cut. It’s about wanting investment in our public sector and standing up for our NHS.”
Picket lines also formed at Lewisham Hospital, as members of the Lewisham and Greenwich Trust voted to strike last week.
Strikes also affected services in Croydon, with the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust advising people to still attend appointments unless otherwise advised. A statement by the trust said: “Our main priority is to maintain a safe level of care for our patients in Croydon and across the NHS in South West London”
Prof Philip Banfield, head of the British Medical Association, told BBC Radio 4 on Monday: “[Doctors] are qualifying with about £100,000 ($120,360) of debt and then earning £14 an hour.”
After receiving sub-inflation pay rises Banfield said junior doctors: “…are earning about a third less than they would have in 2008.”
The doctors’ strike coincides with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget, set to be revealed on March 15. A number of other strikes are expected tomorrow, which will include London Underground workers, teachers, civil servants and university lecturers. More rail strikes are due on Thursday and Friday.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said in a statement: “We have been working closely with NHS England on contingency plans to help protect patient safety during strikes.”