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Striking doctors at Countess of Chester Hospital insist patients are safe

Safety measures in place to ensure nobody suffers despite withdrawal of emergency cover  

Junior doctors on the picket-line at the Countess of Chester Hospital say it’s a ‘sad day’ for the NHS as they withdraw all labour including emergency cover.

Doctors are striking for the second day in a row across NHS England, including at the Countess of Chester Hospital, but insist plans are in place to make sure nobody comes to harm as a result of their action.

Related story: Chester residents join doctors on Countess of Chester Hospital picket-line

This is the first time in the history of the NHS that a group of doctors has taken part in a full walk-out.

Junior doctors are in a long-running dispute with health secretary Jeremy Hunt over his imposition of new contracts.

Mr Hunt wants routine operations carried at weekends as well as during the week in addition to the basic emergency service but the BMA union says without extra resources the same number of staff will be spread too thinly over the week.

Striking junior doctor and BMA representative Dr James Warwick on the picket-line outside the Countess of Chester Hospital.

BMA representative James Warwick, who works at the Countess, said: “I think the first most important thing to say is that it’s very regrettable that it’s come to this stage. None of us wants to be here, we want to be treating patients but the government and the health secretary in particular is completely ignoring what’s being told to him by 50,000 junior doctors that this contract is not safe for patients.”

Related story: Striking doctors at Countess of Chester: 'We will withdraw emergency cover'

Fellow BMA official Namal Rupasinghe agreed: “None of us want to do this today but there are safety measures in place in hospitals so none of our patients will come to any harm. There is a consultant covering every post that a junior doctor would have been covering.”

And he added that striking junior doctors were close at hand to respond should there be a major incident.

Mr Rupasinghe said consultants were happy to step up as they recognised the new contracts would de-motivate junior doctors, many of whom were already leaving medicine or moving abroad.

BMA official Namal Rupasinghe who works at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

“Who is going to staff the NHS?,” said the general surgical registrar, who explained that the new contracts will no longer be imposed on those with existing contracts like himself because Mr Hunt had discovered he doesn’t have the power to cancel current agreements.

He added: “I’m doing this for my colleagues and the future generations and the future of the NHS. We need to save the NHS and not allow it to get to the point where you have no staff because they have either left the country or left the profession.”

Related story: Countess consultant and TV expert Dr Ravi Jayaram backs junior doctors' strike

Colleague James wants to thank the public for their continued support including people who have turned up on the picket-line, brought refreshments and tooted their horns when passing by.

He said: “A huge thanks to the people of Chester, as over the last couple of days and in the previous days of action we have had a huge amount of support – people driving past honking their horns, coming up and talking to us but as well, all the gestures, we have had huge amount of donations of food and drink to keep us going. It’s really heartening.”



David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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