Junior doctors at Whipps Cross hospital gathered to strike against new contracts imposed by the government. The contracts, set to come into force in August 2016, are said to be “unsafe and unfair” by the British Medical Association (BMA).
The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt has so far refused to negotiate on the new terms and conditions of the new contract.
The new contract is something that many health professionals say will push already stretched services to breaking point and may ultimately endanger the lives of patients.
Amira Shamsiddinova (pictured above, left) is a junior doctor in training to be a surgeon. She spoke to The Waltham Cat outside Whipps Cross University Hospital on 6 April, during the fourth strike since January as part of the campaign.
While cars passed the hospital tooted their horns in support, Dr Shamsiddinova said that the dispute is important for everyone in the NHS – not just junior doctors.
“None of us want to strike,” said Dr Shamsiddinova. “We turn up to pickets with heavy hearts, hoping the government will lift imposition and come to the negotiating table to try and reach a safe and fair contract.
“If the junior doctor contract is imposed in its current state, it will be the beginning of the end of a free NHS, as it will drive away the brightest, most dedicated and hard-working of the workforce.
Dr Shamsiddinova said that doctors’ working conditions have a direct impact on the quality of care they receive. Currently, she prioritises sleep and revision over seeing friends and family, something that she gladly does for her patients.
The new contract could mean that doctors are working even longer hours.
“Let’s face it. Stressed, overworked, tired doctors make mistakes. And you don’t want that mistake to be made when it comes to a decision about your health.”
Dr Shamsiddinova added she was “terrified” that under the new NHS contract, she could make a mistake that would cost a patient their limb or even their life.
She says she is very much in favour of an improved NHS service that would extend non-emergency cover to seven days. However, the government have made no provision for extending the services. She says the government’s plans are “irresponsible” and will stretch the current funds and workforce.
She says: “If anyone has been unhappy with the ten minutes appointment their GP gave them last time, or the hours upon hours they waited to be seen in A&E over the winter nights, that is a glimpse into what hospital visits will be like every day when this contract is imposed.
“We work in the NHS, we use these services, we know better than the government what will work and what will make things worse, and we are saying that this contract is unsafe.
“Striking is our last resort to get this government to listen to us.”
The government has refused to reopen negotiations with the BMA, and Hunt has yet to comment on last week’s strike action. Further junior doctor strikes are set to take place on 26 and 27 April.