Ipswich Hospital junior doctor set to join strike says they feel ‘cornered’ by the Government in contract dispute

Ipswich Hospital.

Ipswich Hospital. - Credit: Archant

A junior doctor joining tomorrow’s planned strikes in Suffolk has said her colleagues feel “cornered” in the dispute with the government over pay and a new contract.

Sadia Choudhury, a junior doctor at Ipswich Hospital, raised safeguarding fears over the new contract but backed hospital bosses who insisted patients should not be concerned that the level of care will be compromised during the proposed walkout.

No appointments have been cancelled at Ipswich Hospital or West Suffolk Hospital (WSH) in Bury St Edmunds.

David Cameron has pleaded with junior doctors to call off their “damaging” strike and NHS England has warned hospitals will be under “additional pressure”.

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute failed on Friday, although further talks will continue. Junior doctors are set to provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am tomorrow.

Mrs Choudhury said: “I don’t think the government understands exactly how the NHS works. The contracts which are being imposed are unfair and more importantly they are unsafe.

“For us there are issues over pay, safeguarding, the number of hours we would have to do, pay progression and those who work part-time.

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“Someone like me, in the middle of training, probably wouldn’t be affected. But people coming fresh out of medical school are going to be hit the most because they won’t have any payment protection.

“I don’t think striking is right at any time, even in the summer. But I feel like we have been cornered and it is almost like we are not being listened to.”

The basis for the current round of negotiations is the Government’s offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

This is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay for unsocial hours.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attracts a premium rate of pay.

Under the Government’s offer, junior doctors would receive time-and-a-half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time-and-a-third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.

Mrs Choudhury added: “During the strike, there will be emergency care (equivalent to weekends) but with all the consultants. But I don’t think people should be concerned. If something happens, go to hospital and get treated.”

An Ipswich Hospital spokesman said: “Everyone is working very hard to make sure patients receive high-quality, safe care.

“We have not cancelled any operations, but we have rearranged 60 outpatient appointments out of the daily 1,000 outpatient appointments. If you have not heard from us and you have an appointment (today), please keep it.”

A WSH spokesman said: “We have an excellent relationship with our junior doctors and have been working closely with them and our consultants.

“Where necessary, we have warned patients that some clinics and routine operations may be affected (but) we have asked patients to come for their appointment as normal unless they hear from us.”

Meanwhile, routine operations set for tomorrow were cancelled for 50 patients, who were warned at the weekend, at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

A hospital spokesman said: “We apologise to those patients who have been affected.

“Many services will not be affected by the industrial action...such as emergency care, radiotherapy, renal dialysis, chemotherapy, critical care and maternity services.”