Doctors in the British Medical Association (BMA) took industrial action for the first time in 40 years on Thursday. They refused to undertake non-urgent care in surgeries and hospitals across the country.
A BMA spokesperson said the action had hit at least four out of five NHS employers and one in three GP surgeries. Doctors are protesting against cuts to their pensions.
BMA members in Tower Hamlets, east London, organised a lunchtime protest outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Around 30 doctors and their supporters gathered with banners and megaphones.
Sally Hull is a GP at the Jubilee Street Practice in nearby Shadwell. She told Socialist Worker, “The pensions issue is only one part of the bigger plan to privatise the NHS. We cannot allow the NHS to be dismantled bit by bit.”
The doctors were joined by a nurse in the Unison union who works at the hospital. “I support the doctors’ action,” the nurse said.
“I just wish we were doing it alongside them. It is the same fight. There is a struggle to be had over pay, but giving in on pensions is not going to inspire members to fight over pay.”
Doctors taking action have face a barrage of abuse from the right wing press. Sally retorted, saying, “Of course we are well paid, but we’re fighting for all public sector workers and for the NHS. Our action today can give strength to others.”
East London GP Kambiz Boomla addressed the crowd about the next steps in the campaign, due to be decided at a BMA conference next week.
“We should coordinate action with other workers fighting over pensions,” he said. “And we should be out alongside the rest of the public sector the next time they strike.”