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'Nonsensical' to attempt seven-day NHS service 'when budget doesn't cover five', medics claim

PUBLISHED: 17:44 27 November 2015 | UPDATED: 18:02 27 November 2015

Junior doctors at a rally in central London last month

Junior doctors at a rally in central London last month

PA/Press Association Images

Medics claim they have been "pushed into a corner" by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, after voting for the first ever "all out" strike in the history of the NHS.

Dr Katie Knight, a former peadiatric registrar at the Homerton HospitalDr Katie Knight, a former peadiatric registrar at the Homerton Hospital

Unless talks between NHS doctors’ union – the British Medical Association (BMA) – and the Government are successful, only emergency care will be offered next week on Tuesday, December 1, followed by a full strike on December 8 and December 16.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed to talks in a bid to stop the strike, and negotiations began yesterday, after nearly 75 per cent of 38,000 junior doctors responded to a ballot, with 98 per cent of them in favour, and just 546 of them opposing strike action.

Doctors are furious at Hunt’s proposed changes to their contracts, which are due to come into effect next August.

Hunt claims he wants to change doctors’ contracts to facilitate the creation of a truly seven-day-a-week NHS, but the BMA says the new contracts will lead to doctors working dangerously long hours.

GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row. GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row.

Dr Katie Knight, 29, a paediatric registrar at the Homerton until last month, who lives in Hackney, told the Gazette: “Doctors work seven days a week already, and if Jeremy Hunt truly wants a seven day NHS and it’s not political claptrap, we need more nurses, porters, radiographers and cleaners at the weekends. What we want to make clear is we don’t want a strike, we have been pushed into a corner, and this is the last resort of a bullied workforce under a monopoly employer.

“Already he says the NHS hasn’t got enough money, so to extend it over seven days if there is no budget to run a five day service it is nonsensical.

“The rotas are already short staffed, if this goes ahead people will leave, they will go to Wales, Scotland, or even Australia.” All doctors who are not consultants, including many with up to 15 years experience, are classified as junior doctors.

The proposals will see “normal hours” changed from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday.

In a statement, Hunt said the decision to strike was “regrettable”: “We want to ensure patients have the same quality of care across the week, and have put forward a generous offer that increases basic pay by 11 per cent and reduces doctors’ hours.

“We hope junior doctors will consider the impact this action – especially the withdrawal of emergency care – will have on patients and reconsider.”

Homerton Hospital began making preparations for the strike last week and was reviewing its contingency plan, looking to source clinical cover for emergency rotas to ensure patients’ safety.

A spokesman said: “Our priority will be to minimise the impact of any action on emergency care and our A&E services in particular.

“This may mean that some non-urgent appointments will need to be rescheduled. Should this happen, we will reschedule these appointments as soon as possible so that any inconvenience caused to patients is kept to a minimum.”

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