JUNIOR doctors took to the picket line for the first time in 40 years to protest against the new contracts being imposed by the Government.
More than 20 people stood outside Wigan Infirmary with placards and leaflets, with junior doctors, medical students and supporters from trade unions all joining the protest this morning (Tuesday).
The picket line attracted considerable support from Wiganers, with many people honking their car horns and giving the strikers thumbs-up as they drove past the hospital.
For many the walk-out was their first experience of industrial action and they said the decision to strike had not been taken lightly.
The government wants to modernise the junior doctor contract to make it fairer for doctors and safer for patients but junior doctors fear that they could lead to them working excess hours which would put patients’ lives at risk.
Doctors attending the picket line said they felt they had no choice but to resort to strike action as their concerns were not being heard by the Government and also accused politicians of scapegoating them.
We went into training to help people and to provide care for everyone and the new process will be very damaging as you will have a lot of tired doctors working unmonitored hoursJen Gilchrist
Jen Gilchrist, who works in the ear nose and throat department at Wigan Infirmary and is also a British Medical Association (BMA) rep, said: “It’s about patient safety and it’s about protecting the NHS.
“We went into training to help people and to provide care for everyone and the new process will be very damaging as you will have a lot of tired doctors working unmonitored hours.
“That will bring risk to patient safety as we all know tired doctors make mistakes, and that is not something we’re prepared to accept.
“We’ve taken this as a last-ditch action. We didn’t want to be striking, we didn’t want to not turn up to work today, but we’ve had no choice.”
James Fletcher, a junior paediatric doctor, said: “The Government is trying to get this seven-day service but we already work every day and we already do anti-social hours.
“They are trying to get more out of the NHS without putting more money in and it feels like they will then blame doctors when it all falls apart.”
Junior Doctors voted overwhelming to take industrial action in November in protest at the new contracts proposed by the Department of Health.
Strike action was planned for December but was called off at the last minutes after the DoH and the British Medical Association (BMA) agreed to resume talks.
The latest strikes were planned after the deadline for those talks passed last Monday.
As well as today’s walkout, junior doctors will provide emergency care only from 8am on January 26 until January 28 and stage a full walkout from 8am until 5pm on February 10.
The trust has said that at least eight operations have been cancelled as a result of today’s action but more may need to be rescheduled as the day goes on.
The number would also have been higher as the action clashed with a planned audit day meaning the number scheduled was reduced.
It said it has developed strong contingency plans to deal with disruptions including industrial action and are working with the BMA and its senior doctors to ensure that patient safety is not compromised.
Any affected patients have been advised of changes to their scheduled appointments via letter.
A spokesman said: “During the industrial action we are urging the public to only visit Accident and Emergency (A&E) if they have been involved in an accident or if it is a life-threatening emergency.
“Patients in need of urgent and emergency care will continue to receive the treatment they need, when they need it.”