Junior doctors and supporters at Sunderland Royal Hospital went on strike yesterday in opposition to proposed Government contracts.
The action followed a nationwide strike for junior doctors in an effort to protest against a contract the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, wants to impose.
John Moore, junior doctor at the Newcastle RVI and chairman of the Northern Regional Junior Doctors Committee, said: “The strikes today are a last resort for doctors who are not having their concerns listened to and have the threat of an unsafe and unfair contract imposition hanging over them.”
This is the second protest this month and comes amid frustration from doctors such as Alexandra Thompson, a junior doctor working in Sunderland, who says: “The contract will take away restrictions on our working hours, which would normally give financial penalties to trusts for overworking doctors, doing longer shifts than they should.”
The contract has been widely criticised by both doctors and activists who claim that it ‘will put patient safety at risk’.
“One of the key issues at the moment is whether this contract is going to be safe for patients,” said Doctor Thompson.
She added: “Inevitably, the trusts will end up having to make doctors work harder. And we’ll be tired and tired which would make us, doctors, more likely to make mistakes.”
The strikes come after claims that Jeremy Hunt vetoed a deal with the NHS in the wake of the previous junior doctors’ strike.
Calling Mr Hunt’s actions “shameful”, Doctor Thompson added: “What I would like is for the Government to move a little bit and come to an agreement with the BMA (British Medical Association).
“We have read this contract, and when 54,000 junior doctors are saying there’s a problem, then, I think, Mr Hunt should listen.”
Doctor John Moore was pleased with the turnout for the day’s strike and said: “Given how many junior doctors had to be in work anyway, as they were providing emergency care, the turnout was excellent throughout the region.”
However, he added: “The Health Secretary needs to accept that a deal can be reached through proper negotiation, not last minute offers and headline grabbing tactics.
“We may, however, have to continue industrial action as this is the only option we have left.”