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Junior doctors’ strike at hospitals over new contract

PUBLISHED: 12:10 12 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:24 12 January 2016

Picket line for junior doctors at Ipswich Hospital.

Picket line for junior doctors at Ipswich Hospital.

The first strike by junior doctors in 40 years is under way in Suffolk as thousands across the country walk out in a row over a new contract.

Picket line for junior doctors at Ipswich Hospital. Picket line for junior doctors at Ipswich Hospital.

Waving placards emblazoned with the phrase ‘not safe, not fair’, dozens of junior doctors braved the cold to form two picket lines at Ipswich Hospital from 8am today.

See our Q&A about the strike here.

Emergency care lasting 24 hours is in place at the Heath Road hospital. No appointments have been cancelled but 60 outpatient appointments were rearranged.

Leading one of the picket lines, Nick Schindler, who has been a junior doctor for four-and-a-half years and joined Ipswich Hospital last September, insisted the walkout was justified.

Against a backdrop of passing vehicles honking in support, he said: “I’m striking because the Governments want to impose unsafe and unfair contracts.

“The proposed contracts take away safeguards that prevent trusts from issuing rotas with unsafe hours.

“Judging by how many cars have been beeping their horns, and a national poll showing 66% of people are in support, I think we have got the public’s support.

“I think there are justified. I really regret any disruption caused to patients and I really am sorry, but I have got to think of the NHS and the long-term.”

One of the banners read: “Why are junior doctors going on strike for the first time in 40 years? The government is threatening the future of the NHS. They want to remove safety measures that stop junior doctors from working excessive hours. They want to force through a contract on junior doctors which threatens the quality of care patients receive.

“It’s a last resort – but junior doctors genuinely feel they have no choice.”

Another simply stated, in large colourful writing: “A junior doctor saved me life.”

Junior doctors protesting at the hospital could be heard telling passers-by that they were not campaigning for personal gain but to protect the NHS from the “spin” of the government.

The Government says the new deal would have an absolute limit of 72 hours in any week, lower than the 91 hours that the current arrangements allow.

In addition, hospitals are currently monitored, with financial penalties if doctors are regularly working longer hours than the European Working Time Directive allows. But this system is to be scrapped. Junior doctors have raised concerns that this will mean they are put under more pressure to work unsafe hours.

Fauzia Begum, a junior doctor in her second year at Ipswich Hospital, warned some of her colleagues are being stretched beyond breaking point because of their shift work and the number of hours they work.

She said: “I am striking for the sake of patients as I don’t believe they deserve doctors who are overworked, which is my main issue.

“When you are overworked, you cannot function as well. We are highly trained, highly skilled, but no matter how skilled you are fatigued beyond what is normal for a human being, you can make mistakes.

“So I would like to see the government keep the financial penalties in place and do away with this stupid idea of having a guardian who works alongside you.”

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