Up to 38,000 junior doctors have gone on strike today, joining picket lines outside hospitals up and down the country in protest of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposals to change their contracts.
Thousands of routine procedures were cancelled but emergency care was still available today, as junior doctors—that is, those at a level up to but not including consultant—walked out.
The landmark industrial action was called after 98 per cent of the 38,000 junior doctors who are members of the British Medical Association voted in favour of strikes in response to proposed restrictions to the working hours in which junior doctors are paid for overtime.
Outside UK hospitals junior doctors, medical students, other medical professionals and members of the public showing solidarity gathered and protested.
NHS England reported that 10,000 of a possible 26,000 who were scheduled to work turned up today did, totalling 38 per cent, though this included the emergency staff who were planning on working today as it was.
The Manchester Royal Infirmary saw a gathering of around 40 to 50 demonstrators. As well as medics out to protest, students from the Save Our NHS campaign, Manchester Labour Students, and Black Flag Manchester were present.
Passing drivers also showed their loud support, with many honking horns and waving out of their car windows as they drove past the picket line.
Rupa, a junior ophthalmologist, was out on the picket line today. She said, “I’m striking today because I have solidarity with all of the doctors, and we’re concerned about the future of the NHS.
“The contract proposals that are being imposed upon us we’re worried about because it’s based on fallible data which we don’t trust. We’re concerned about the safety of patients and of the future of the NHS, and we hope that more people support us.
“The hospitals and the junior doctors have all put plans in place to ensure that the emergency services continue, and also the consultants are in full support of us and our strike today, and they will also be helping out. There is a continuation of all services and patients should still come into hospital if they need to.”
Junior doctors will strike again, for 48 hours, on the 26th of January and again on the 10th of February, when medics—this time including emergency staff—will walk out between 8am and 5pm.