Junior doctors in Worthing were out in force as they began the first all-out doctors’ strike in NHS history.
The strikes began at 8am over the imposition of a new contract for junior doctors and will last until 5pm today and tomorrow (April 26-27).
There have been four previous strikes, but this is the first time services such as A&E, maternity and intensive care have been hit in the long-running dispute between doctors and the government.
A statement issued by NHS England said it ‘is pulling out all the stops to minimise the risks to the quality and safety of care during this week’s strike’ after nearly 13,000 routine operations and more than 100,000 appointments were postponed to free up staff.
At Worthing Hospital, extra senior consultants and associate specialist doctors have been drafted in to treat patients during the strike.
It’s an action that the doctors in Worthing agree they didn’t want to take – but one that was necessary according to junior doctor representative Nat Duke.
The reaction today seems almost universally positive. The warmth we’ve got from people when standing here on the picket line has been humbling.Nat Duke
Nat said: “Were there to be a major incident, there’s an agreed protocol. The hospital would contact NHS England who would then speak to the British Medical Association to call us back into work. We would do that without hestitation if that were required.”
Stood on Lyndhurst Road outside Worthing Hospital, the 40-strong crowd of protesting doctors were supported by the public.
The sound of drivers beeping their horns elicited cheers from those striking, and members of the public bought them tea and coffee. One mother walking her child to school shouted ‘we’re supporting you all the way’.
Doctors will also be joined by members of the Worthing Mums and Dads group, who supported them during the last strike.
This comes after a survey by Ipsos Mori conducted for the BBC found that 57 per cent of adults in England support the all-out strike.
Nat said: “The reaction today seems almost universally positive. The warmth we’ve got from people when standing here on the picket line has been humbling.
“The public have realised that something has driven 54,000 hard-working junior doctors to go to these extremes, and that is the intransigence of the Department of Health who are refusing to listen to our valid concerns.”
Nat added that is was difficult for negotations to take place ‘when the government isn’t offering a meaningful negotiation’.
“We feel backed into a corner, and were the threat of imposition to remain after this, we would have to consider our options regarding further strike action.”
In a statement issued by the junior doctors of Worthing Hospital, they call for local MPs Tim Loughton and Peter Bottomley to ‘show their support for the doctors responsible for delivering this excellent quality of care at their local hospital by vocally opposing the imposition of this unfair, unsafe, and unworkable contract’.
Mr Loughton and Mr Bottomley have been approached for comment.