Employment and business

Public support for junior doctors’ strike remains high as third strike goes ahead

Doctors walked out on Wednesday for a third time this year. Image: Katie Bell.

Doctors walked out on Wednesday for a third time this year. Pic: Katie Bell.

Public support for junior doctors in their dispute against the government’s imposed contract changes remains high as a third 48-hour strike begins today.

The new terms proposed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt are part of government efforts to deliver a seven-day NHS.

The new terms would designate Saturdays as a normal working day that would not attract overtime payments.

Junior doctors argue that the NHS already operates on a seven-day basis and that the contract would create unsafe working conditions.

However months of negotiations failed in February and Mr. Hunt announced that he would impose the contract on doctors from August this year.

Today’s strike is the latest in a string of walk-outs as the dispute between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the health secretary escalates.

More than 5,000 operations and procedures across England have been cancelled and only emergency care is operating.

However, a poll by Ipsos MORI for the BBC shows that support for the strikes remains high as long as emergency services remain open.

Opposition to the strikes has fallen from 22 per cent to 17 per cent since before the February walkout.

Support remained strong at 65 per cent.

The poll also said that 57 per cent of respondents thought the government was the party at fault, with an 28 per cent saying that both parties were equally at fault.

Meanwhile, more than one in ten patients are reportedly still waiting over the four-hour target in Accident and Emergency, the worst performance in more than a decade.

Medical staff told Londonmultimedianews that the reliance on agencies, high levels of bed occupancy and structural issues in management are pushing the NHS to its limits.

Josh Kneale works as healthcare assistant.

He believes one of the main problems is that multiple tiers of managements lead to delays in discharging patients:

Often discharges will take seven to eight hours whereas somebody will be ready to leave at 9 o’clock in the morning, they won’t actually leave the hospital until six or seven at night.

That’s despite NHS complaints that a lack of beds is placing a strain on the service.

Trainee paramedic Flossie Maltby agrees and says that high levels of pay have attracted people who are only interested in the money.

So, one of the main problems I feel that is wrong with the NHS is the fact that there are far too many people higher up who are being paid a hell of a lot of money with no clinical background whatsoever.

She also says the health service could minimise costs by cutting back on one-use-only equipment.

Nicole Tracey is a nurse in an elderly care home in Cambridgeshire and believes that we take the NHS for granted.

There’s an extensive amount of equipment available for patients, mainly in the community, such as zimmer frames if they need it, and that usually lasts them for a whole lifetime.

Nicole says the NHS provides universal coverage with low out-of-pocket costs while maintaining quick access to specialty services.

The British Medical Association has confirmed two more 48-hour strikes planned for April.

According to recent poll nearly 90 per cent of junior doctors will consider leaving the NHS if the contract is imposed in August.

Experts believe that if we lost even 5 per cent, the NHS would grind to a halt.

Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge is one of the best in the world. Pic: Hannah Twiggs

Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge is one of the best in the world. Image: Hannah Twiggs

LondonMultimediaNews also asked people in Cambridge what they about the strikes.

Robbie Thompson, a graduate admission tutor from Queen’s College, said:

The only thing I can say is I’m absolutely flabbergasted at the lies and the spin Jeremy Hunt is putting out there.

Who would you rather trust, 53,000 plus junior doctors saying this contract is unsafe, or a multimillionaire front bench Tory politician who is probably just gunning for the top job when David Cameron gives up screwing the country?

Melissa Lampon, a bio-medical science student from Leeds, said:

Thousands of patients have already had their operations and appointments cancelled and even more will suffer the same fate if an agreement isn’t reached.

A further strike will bring misery to thousands and will achieve nothing.

The issue is about Saturday pay rates, not on hours or safety.

Meanwhile, Mr.Hunt was mocked in Parliament today for giving a statement on patient safety while failing to mention the strikes.

The shadow health secretary, Heidi Alexander, said:

How can he stand here and talk about patient safety when it’s him and him alone to blame for the current industrial action, for the destruction of stall morale and for the potential exodus of junior doctors to the southern hemisphere?

It now seems clear that the future of our health service could well depend on a successful resolution between the government and the BMA – a resolution that still seems a long way off.

Listen to our full report below.

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