Hospitals braced for strike action by junior doctors

Calderdale Royal Hospital Accident and Emergency.
Calderdale Royal Hospital Accident and Emergency.
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People are being urged only to go to hospital if they are in a genuine emergency when junior doctors go on strike this week.

Junior doctors will be on strike between 8am and 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday in a dispute with the government over a new junior doctors’ contract.

The British Medical Association (BMA) called the action after health secretary Jeremy Hunt imposed the new terms of employment instead of a negotiated settlement being reached.

Previous strikes have not included junior doctors on call to provide emergency cover, but this week’s walkouts will involve a full withdrawal of labour.

Hundreds of outpatient appointments and some operations have been cancelled by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

Contingency plans have been drawn up to ensure the most poorly patients continue to be cared for safely at Calderdale Royal Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Dr Mark Davies, the trust’s clinical lead for A&E, said: “To be able to continue to provide safe care when we are without our junior doctor colleagues for two days makes this a huge challenge not just for the hospital colleagues but also for all our partners as well.

“We have been planning extensively to ensure the healthcare system locally is able to cope with this pressure.

“We want to be able to ensure we are able to care for the most poorly and injured patients during these times and we would ask the public to try and support us, where possible, by only coming in with emergency conditions.”

The BMA believes the new contract will lead to unsafe working hours and pay cuts for junior doctors. Fears have also been raised that the contract discriminates against women.

Last week, the organisation offered to cancel this week’s strike action if the new contract was not imposed.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, the BMA’s Johann Malawana said: “As you know, no junior doctor wants to have to take industrial action, but they have been left without further recourse.

“Junior doctors who I meet up and down the country are saying that they will not accept a contract being forced on them, a contract which the government’s own equality impact assessment acknowledges to be discriminatory to women.”

Yesterday, Mr Hunt wrote to Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA, to invite him to a meeting today to try and avert the strike.

Mr Hunt wrote: “The extreme action planned will be deeply worrying for patients, and place enormous additional strain on our NHS at a time of intense pressure.”