Frantic race to prepare for five-day strikes at region’s hospitals
- Credit: George Ryan
Hospital bosses across the region are today rapidly drawing up plans to cope with a five-day strike by junior doctors later this month.
The strike – which will cause the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of operations and appointments at English hospitals – has been condemned by the government, but junior doctors say it is necessary to fight a planned new contract.
The government has said it will impose the contract on junior doctors as a step towards delivering a 'seven-day NHS'.
In East Anglia health services will be disrupted at the Norfolk and Norwich, James Paget (Gorleston), Queen Elizabeth (King's Lynn), West Suffolk (Bury St Edmunds), Ipswich and Addenbrooke's (Cambridge) hospitals.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said it was 'disappointed' and the proposed strikes were disproportionate.
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Health chiefs have just 10 days to plan for the strike, which one hospital warned would have a 'major impact' on its ability to keep promises to patients about waiting times.
Consultants will staff wards and emergency work and some nurses will perform tasks within their remit which are usually carried out by junior doctors.
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But a full withdrawal of labour for five days represents a step into the dark for the NHS.
The strike was called after 58pc of junior doctors voted against accepting a revised contract agreed by the government and the British Medical Association (BMA).
The Department of Health said the BMA 'must be the first union in history to call for strike action against a deal they themselves negotiated and said was a good one'.
James Rowson, the BMA representative at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said he voted in favour of the contract but would still be striking.
'It has been a difficult dilemma,' he said. 'That was my stance as an individual but my job is to listen to the membership. We held a survey and the main reasons doctors voted against the contract were (in no particular order): Saturday pay, discrimination against part-time doctors, equality issues, and protection of whistleblowers.'
He said junior doctors were still concerned about a stretching of the workforce as a result of the contract. 'I'm disappointed it's had to get this far but I'm glad that the BMA are taking this so seriously, because we got to the stage where one- or two- day strikes didn't mean anything,' he added.
The BMA said it would call off the strikes if the government agreed to stop the imposition.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said 100,000 operations and around a million appointments would be hit by the action.
He said he was surprised by the move as the BMA had previously recommended the new contract.
'Now they are saying we are going to have a devastating strike, the like of which the NHS has never seen before,' Mr Hunt told the BBC.
Further strikes will be carried out between October 5-7, October 10-11, November 14-18 and December 5-9.
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