Junior doctors held picket lines at hospitals across England today, Tuesday, on strike against attacks on their contracts and in defence of the NHS.
It’s the first of three walkouts planned by the British Medical Association (BMA) against health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s attempts to make them work longer hours for less.
Radu Iosub is a BMA rep at Callington Road Psychiatric Hospital in Bristol. He told Socialist Worker, “We’re genuinely concerned about the new contracts which jeopardise patient safety.”
Elsewhere in Bristol there were around 15 junior doctors picketing at Southmead Hospital, the second biggest hospital in Bristol. The mood was very up. They were boosted to see the opinion poll showing public opinion is on their side.
There were lots of people beeping their horns as they passed. And lots of other workers were coming to get stickers in support of the doctors.
London was full of busy picket lines. At Homerton hospital in Hackney, east London, workers shouted “Jeremy Hunt hear us say, the NHS is here to stay” and “Whose NHS? Our NHS!”
At King’s College Hospital in south London, junior doctor Chris James told Socialist Worker, "This will be an unsafe contract, unfair pay.
"But there is a broader issue of the erosion of the NHS, the wider public do not want it. Our strike is right, just and we won't back down".
At Chelmsford in Essex doctors were angry at how they had been treated by the government. A previous planned strike was called off in December for talks—but Hunt’s henchmen haven’t budged.
A BMA rep said, "Junior doctors feel it's been a long battle and were very frustrated when it was called off. Colleagues are very supportive, including nurses and doctors.
"Most patients are supportive but there is a lot of scaremongering out there particularly from the press. We have to patiently explain to people why we are striking."
Many picket lines saw supporters from other unions and organisations bring solidarity. In Manchester around 100 junior doctors and supporters rallied outside Manchester Royal Infirmary, including a number of other trade union banners.
A group of around 40 people marched up to the BMA picket line outside York Hospital today much to the delight of the junior doctors. Branches of the Unison, Unite and UCU carried their banners and made speeches of support.
York council vehicles appeared in a convoy tooting their horns and waving their union banners from the windows. Some of the unwashed vehicles had “Solidarity with the NHS” handwritten in the dirt.