Patients support junior doctors striking at Northwick Park Hospital

Junior doctors strike at Northwick Park Hospital today. Picture: Jeff Anderson/Twitter

Junior doctors strike at Northwick Park Hospital today. Picture: Jeff Anderson/Twitter - Credit: Archant

With supportive honks from passing traffic, junior doctors serving Northwick Park Hospital staged their first walk-out in 40 years.

Two picket lines were formed outside the entrance of the Watford Road hospital in Sudbury, with more than 100 junior doctors waving placards and chanting “Save Our NHS”.

Talks broke down between the government and the British Medical Association (BMA) over health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposals to change working contracts, which the BMA claims would result in less pay and overworking for junior doctors.

Dr Emma Carrington, a surgical trainee leading the strike, said: “We have got such a fight ahead of us, the government is doing whatever it can to discredit us which is a real shame because all we want to do is the best for our patients, the best for ourselves and the best for our families. We’re absolutely fed up with the lies and the spin, discrediting our profession.”

Mhairi Murdoch, a medical trainee in intensive care, was one of many striking who said the 11 per cent pay rise would be a cut in real terms because of the proposed new “seven-day working week”, which would harm patient safety.

“They don’t take into account that overall it’s going to be a pay cut because they will get rid of banding - the safeguards with the hours,” she said. “Tired doctors make mistakes and you want a contract which will be fair for staff and fair for patients.”

Patients wandering in and out of the busy hospital spoke of their support for the strikers.

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Marta Maria, 41, who came from St Raphael’s Estate in Neasden with her 18-year-old daughter, Fatima Sohra, said: “There are many doctors who are doing many hours work for the money they get. More patients will die.”

Patient Tony Levene, 69, who came in for blood tests said that “many will take the training and emigrate”. That message was echoed by Joanna Belcher, who graduated from university with £60,000 of debt and is currently in her first foundation year.

She said the plans would “destroy the profession” and prompt her to “change career or move country”.

She added: “We are not martyrs, we are human beings.”

A further 48-hour strike is planned for January 26 and a third in February if talks continue to fail.

Zareen Hamid, senior house officer in acute medicine, who graduated four years ago and will be a junior doctor for another eight years, said: “I hope it’s only today. I hope it doesn’t go on as long as the BMA plans but unfortunately I don’t see it coming to a resolution because Jeremy Hunt is so determined to see through some of his preconditions.”

Cllr Keith Perrin, Labour councillor for Northwick Park, added: “I’m proud to support the junior doctors. They already work weekends and dreadfully long hours.”