Hundreds of patients have their operations and appointments cancelled as junior doctors strike for second time over contract-row with government

Junior doctors on strike at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Junior doctors on strike at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Junior doctors today say they are 'fighting for the future of the NHS' as they strike action against the government, prompting disruption to hundreds of patients across the region.

Dr Trevor Killeen, a junior doctor at James Paget Hospital.

Dr Trevor Killeen, a junior doctor at James Paget Hospital. - Credit: Archant

The 24-hour strike, which began 8am this morning, came after last-ditch talks between the government and British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday failed to lead to a compromise over a new proposed contract.

Emergency care is not affected but patients visiting hospitals are being warned to expect delays.

Doctors across the region have been picketing outside their hospital, and some are now in Norwich and Great Yarmouth talking to members of the public about the conflict.

Dr Mira Pecheva, who is training to become a surgeon, and Dr Emily Player, a GP trainee, were among a group of N&N doctors talking to people in the city.

Striking junior doctors engage with the public on Gentleman's Walk, Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Striking junior doctors engage with the public on Gentleman's Walk, Norwich.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Dr Player said: 'The overall message is that this is not about pay, it's about patient safety.'

Dr Pecheva said: 'If I am tired from working long hours then I wouldn't want to look after myself, let alone other people.

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'He [Jeremy Hunt] has quoted research which is either incorrect, or not the most recent, about patient deaths at the weekend. If we did that when treating patients we would be expelled from the profession.'

Dr Trevor Killeen, a junior doctor at James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, said: 'We don't want to strike but we feel we have been left with no choice.

Junior doctors have been picketing at James Paget Hospital in Gorleston this morning, as part of the

Junior doctors have been picketing at James Paget Hospital in Gorleston this morning, as part of the national strike. - Credit: Archant

'The government has been clever in that it has made the public debate a lot about pay but our main concern is patient safety.

'Junior doctors already work 24/7 for 365 days a year, and it's an insult to suggest otherwise.

'If you start spreading an already stretched workforce on weekdays even more thinly to weekends then there will be less staff working during hospitals' busiest weekdays.

'That makes patients less safe.'

Speaking to the BBC, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'The job of health secretary is to do the right thing for patients and we have now had eight studies in the last five years that have shown that mortality rates at weekends are higher than they should be. 'And my job is to do something about that.

'I think it's a good deal, it's a fair deal.'

The strike has disrupted services across all the region's hospital trusts.

- Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust cancelled four operations, four day cases, 13 pre-operative assessments, and 179 outpatient clinic appointments. Of the 278 junior doctors rostered to work at the hospital today, 124 are in work.

- James Paget University Hospitals Trust cancelled ten operations and 45 outpatient clinic appointments. Of the 105 doctors rostered, there are 33 junior doctors working today, though (like the N&N) the figures include doctors working in emergency care who could not strike.

- Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn cancelled 21 surgery slots, two operations, and five clinics which affected 42 patients.

- West Suffolk Hospital cancelled eight operations, two day cases, and 26 outpatient appointments.

- Ipswich Hospital cancelled 80 outpatient appointments but no operations.

Across England at least 2,884 operations were cancelled.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay for junior doctors.

The government wants to change this but the BMA rejects the idea that Saturday should be classed as a normal working day.

Have you been affected by the strike?

Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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