Socialist Worker

Junior doctors walk out against Tory attacks on the NHS

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2490

Student solidarity for the strike and the fight to defend the NHS at Kings College Hospital in south London

Student solidarity for the strike and the fight to defend the NHS at Kings College Hospital in south London (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Junior doctors across England walked out for the second time in defence of the NHS, today, Wednesday. 

London is full of well-supported and confident picket lines.

Emily, a junior doctor, was at the Royal London Hospitals 40-strong picket line in East London. "This is about the future of the NHS," she said. "They have a long term strategy to drive the NHS into the ground and privatise it."

Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt is trying to impose dangerous new contracts that would rip apart terms and conditions and put patients' lives at risk.

Financial penalties on hospital bosses overworking doctors were brought in during the 1990s amid fears for patient safety. Victoria, a junior doctor at Whipps Cross in north east London, said, "The new contract would get rid of the safeguards that stop us working an unsafe amount of hours.

"They also want to make Saturday a week day, which would just stretch the same amount of doctors."

Strikers were out in force at south London’s King’s College Hospital. Other hospital workers including midwives joined picket lines to show their support.

Pickets said the Tory attacks on their contracts were an attack on the NHS. Joseph Hetherington told Socialist Worker, “I think the government wants to bring the downfall of the NHS. They can cause a crisis in the service and then say, ‘It’s not working properly so let’s privatise it’.”

Joseph said, “Junior doctors are one of the largest groups in the NHS. If they defeat the doctors, it will be easier for them to go after everyone else.”

At the Royal London a number of doctors had homemade signs saying, "Striking for patient safety."

Safeguards

Lauren said, "If they take away the safeguards then you just end up with tired doctors that make mistakes."

Alice added, "Airline pilots and lorry drivers have restrictions because they are responsible for people. Why not doctors?"

Joseph Hetherington

Joseph Hetherington (Pic: Socialist Worker)


On the picket line in Coventry

On the picket line in Coventry (Pic: Sean Leahy)


Striker Sarah Muldoon added, “I’m an anaesthetic registrar and there are already not enough of us to provide a safe service.

“The government wants to make it cheaper to employ us on extra Saturdays. Some of us think they want to make the workforce cheaper so they can package up the NHS and sell it off.”

Today's walkout is a focus for all the anger against the Tories' attacks on the NHS and austerity.

On the picket lines passing buses and cars tooted horns in support and trade unionists brought solidarity to the strikers.

Graeme, the Unite union London construction branch secretary, joined the Whipps Cross picket line in north east London. "This is about Tory policy to get rid of the NHS," he said. "I've come down to show my support and see what we can do to help."

Emily said, "We've had people coming up and donating tea and coffee," she said.

"The local shop made personalised cakes supporting the strike and the market stall holders have been putting up our posters."

Lauren added, "I've not met anyone who's against the strike. My patients were wishing me good luck."

Impose

Hunt has said that he could impose the deal as early as this week.

Many junior doctors talked about “leaving the profession" as a result. But a united fight and further action can push Hunt back.

Petra Hanson, chair of West Midlands BMA, told Socialist Worker,"We are extremely united and strong because of the nature of the contract. We will not give up until we get a contract that is both safe and fair for everyone.”

 Nicki from Whipps Cross said, “I imagine there's be further days of action and personally say they should be longer.”

Patrick, a junior doctor in south London, said, “We need to unite against these attacks, and we need solidarity with each other. Whether you are a doctor, a nurse, a bus driver or a street sweeper – it’s everyone’s fight.”

Thanks to everyone who has sent reports. Please send your reports and pictures to reports@socialistworker.co.uk

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