Junior doctors across England, including the Countess of Chester Hospital , are currently taking part in a second 24-hour strike in opposition to new contracts they fear will put patients at risk.
The 24-hour strike began at 8am today (Wednesday, February 10) with picket lines on all entrances to the Upton hospital.
Members of the public showed their support by tooting their horns while driving past as they did during the first strike on January 12.
The strikers are at loggerheads with health secretary Jeremy Hunt over his desire to introduce a new contract.
Mr Hunt wants the NHS to work at full capacity seven days a week with routine operations taking place at weekends as well as during the week alongside the basic emergency service. Doctors don’t object in principle but say this can only be achieved by injecting more investment.
Without more staff and resources, medics’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) claims it will lead to stressed out doctors working longer hours, potentially putting patients’ lives at risk and jeopardising their own health, and all for a reduced pay packet.
BMA representative Dr Tom Micklewright, a trainee GP who is working in paediatrics at the Countess, said: “We’re really disappointed it’s come to this but we’re still not making the progress we want to see towards a safe and fair contract for junior doctors which is why we’re here again today.”
And he attacked the health secretary Mr Hunt for comments he made at the weekend on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show when he accused the BMA of behaving in a ‘totally irresponsible way’ and ‘spreading misinformation’ about the proposed deal.
Mr Micklewright hit back: “I think it’s outrageous. I think it’s incredibly condescending for him to say something like that. We’re all intelligent, well-informed people. We’ve all been following these contract negotiations closely and for him to accuse the BMA of misleading us and accuse us of not understanding the real issues is deeply patronising.
“Yes we do understand, yes, we are up to date and yes, we all do disagree with this contract which is why 98% of us voted to go on strike today.”
Management at the Countess has offered reassurances emergency and urgent care will be provided as usual . Some outpatient appointments had been cancelled but affected patients should have been notified before the walk-out.
Nearly 3,000 operations have been cancelled across NHS England as a result of the strike.
■ Striking paediatric doctors from Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital are this afternoon giving up their own time to hold sessions in Waverton Village Hall where they will teach local parents basic life support for children.