Emergency cover will be withdrawn by junior doctors at the Countess of Chester Hospital during the next national strike but they hope this can be avoided.
Doctors on the picket-line this morning (Wednesday, April 6) say their ‘resolve has been strengthened’ in a row over the imposition of new contracts by health secretary Jeremy Hunt this August.
British Medical Association (BMA) representative Dr James Warwick said if anything there was even more anger since the fine details had been shared.
Without more staff, the BMA claims Mr Hunt’s aim of a comprehensive seven-day service – with routine care added to the basic emergency service at weekends – will lead to stressed out doctors, potentially putting patients’ lives at risk and all for a reduced pay packet.
Until now striking junior doctors have continued to provide emergency cover but in an escalation of the dispute the next action planned from 8am to 5pm on April 26 and 27 will see a full walk-out.
Dr Warwick said: “I can understand the public will have concerns about this as we have too. It’s certainly not what we want to do but I think the feeling is we have to take further action to get Jeremy Hunt to listen to us or we carry on with the sort of action you see today.
“Although the action to date has less of an impact it could potentially go on for longer so we really hope the government will step in and stop this action happening as all we need to hear is that they are going to stop the contract coming in this August, leave it for a year, and spend a couple of months negotiating with us.
“If that happens I suspect we would get a settlement that everybody is happy with.”
Dr Warwick and his colleagues arranged their picket line by the busy Liverpool Road with many motorists keen to show support by tooting their horns. Dr Warwick said when asked in opinion polls, a majority of the public would still back the strike even if emergency cover was withdrawn.
“The government say it’s unnecessary as we say it’s unnecessary,” added the doctor, who reassured people emergency care would still be provided by non-striking consultant colleagues. “I suspect in terms of emergency care, things will be absolutely fine.”
Dr Warwick said there were two ongoing legal challenges to the new contracts. The BMA challenge had been around a failure to publish an assessment showing how the changes may impact on different groups. Now it had been produced it indicated women and disabled people would suffer discrimination.
“How can this contract stand when it appears to be completely against equality and discrimination laws?” he queried.