Socialist Worker

Junior doctors march in London to stop Tory attacks on the NHS

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2489

Junior doctors and supporters sat down in Whitehall

Junior doctors and supporters sat down in Whitehall (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Over 2,000 junior doctors and their supporters marched through central London today, Saturday.

The protest came ahead of a planned walkout by junior doctors in the British Medical Association (BMA) next Wednesday.

Doctors are fighting Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's plans to impose a new contract that would rip apart conditions and put patient safety at risk.

Junior doctor Craig said, "It's almost like Jeremy Hunt has got a death wish for the NHS. There isn't a single junior doctor who supports Hunt."

Chants of, "Save Our NHS" and, "Jeremy Hunt's got to go" rang through Whitehall.

Mohammed, a junior doctor from London, said, "This contract is about dismantling the National Health Service.

"The workforce is already stretched to the limit and to go any further would put patients' lives at risk."

Hunt claims the new contract is necessary to bring in "seven day working" and improve patient care.

But junior doctors already work long hours, including nights and weekends.

Junior doctor Zena explained, "If you're not on call then you'll be working from 9am until 5pm, but you always get there early and leave late.

Junior doctors on the march

Junior doctors on the march (Pic: Socialist Worker)

"If you are on call you're working around the clock for 56 hours from Saturday morning until Monday evening.


"If you don't sleep, you don't sleep."

Jessica, another junior doctor, had worked 72 and half hours this week. "I work one weekend in a month, but many do much more," she said.

Brian, from Liverpool, added, "We already deliver a seven-day service. I work in accident and emergency and have just done a week of shifts of 4pm to 1am and 10pm to 8am."

The new contracts would slash unsocial hours' payments and remove financial penalties on hospital bosses who make junior doctors work a dangerous number of hours.

Louise, a GP trainee from London, said, "There would be no restrictions on unsafe hours.

"But tired doctors make mistakes and that's no good for our patients."

Hunt wants to smash health workers' pay, terms and conditions to soften the NHS up for privatisation. The Tories also plan to axe bursaries for student nurses, midwives and other health students.

Health students plan to walk out in solidarity with junior doctors during their walkout next Wednesday.

Danielle, a leading student nurse, joined the march. "I'm joining the junior doctors because the NHS is facing devastating cuts," she told Socialist Worker. "If we don't unite now we could lose the NHS."

And Janet, a nurse in central London, said, "The public understand that when health workers fight they are fighting to defend the NHS."

The march rallied in Waterloo Place and marched on Downing Street.

Hundreds of doctors held a sitdown in front of Downing Street. They tried to hand in an open letter, the NHS scroll, but Downing Street refused to accept it.

The Department of Health has said it could announce imposition of the new contracts as early as next week.

Andy from London said, "The strike is the key thing now. We're worried that they might announce imposition, but we've got to keep protesting and striking."

Roshana Median, one of the organisers, told the rally, "We will not let them impose this contract."

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