Junior doctors have been on the picket line at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) this morning as part of a national strike over proposed changes to their contracts.
The 24-hour walkout was called by the British Medical Association (BMA) after talks with NHS employers broke down last week. Last minute talks yesterday failed to resolve the dispute.
Four clinics and one day surgery list have been cancelled as a result of the strike, while two other surgery lists have been reduced. A number of appointments have also been rescheduled.
And Dr Shrestha Sinha, an anasthetic registrar at the QEH and a local BMA representative, said he wanted to apologise to patients whose services were being disrupted by the walkout.
But he stressed that emergency care would continue to be provided as normal during the strike and patients who need to attend the hospital should still do so.
He added: “We’re causing some disruption today to stabilise tomorrow. That’s the real concern.”
The dispute relates to government-proposed changes to junior doctors’ pay and working hours, which ministers insist are necessary in order to create seven day a week services.
But the BMA fears the plans could harm patient care because of the weakening of safeguards to prevent staff from working extensive hours.
Dr Sinha said he was worried that the dispute with junior doctors would not be the last and questioned the government’s claims about NHS funding.
He said: “At the moment it’s junior doctors. Next it could be nurses or physiotherapists. It’s not safe and it’s not fair.
“They’re talking about an £8 billion increase in funding but they want £20 billion in efficiency savings.
“With a £10 billion cut they want to increase service output by 40 per cent. Their sums don’t add up.”
A further 48 hour strike, in which junior doctors will again provide emergency care, is scheduled to begin at 8am on January 26.
And a nine-hour walkout, when they intend to withdraw their labour completely, is scheduled for February 10.
Dr Sinha said he hoped the dispute could be resolved without those stoppages taking place.
He added: “I was hoping I wouldn’t be here today. It saddens me that it had to come to this and I hope that, by making a stand today, we’ll be able to make further progress in the talks.”