Sheffield junior doctors reassure patients over strike action

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Junior doctors across the country have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike in a row with the Government over a new contract which they regard as unfair and unsafe - but Sheffield junior doctors have reassured people in the city that the industrial action will not affect emergency services.

A junior doctor at the Northern General Hospital who will be going on strike and who wishes to remain anonymous said: “It will actually be safer for patients because consultants, which are more experienced doctors, will cover for us in emergency services.

“The strike is set up to hurt the government, not the patients. There will be no harm to patients whatsoever - no patient will come at any harm or will be put at risk.”

The strike will mean that non-urgent services - such as planned operations and routine clinics - will have to be cancelled on the three strike days announced so far - December 1, 8 and 16.

It is not confirmed yet how many junior doctors in Sheffield will take part in the strike but it is expected that the majority will do.

In a ballot of more than 37,000 doctors by the British Medical Association (BMA), 98 per cent of doctors voted in favour of strikes.

The decision comes after government’s proposals for a new contract for junior doctors, which include reclassifying a doctor’s normal working week to include Saturdays and up to 10pm every night except Sunday.

Junior doctors argue they face up to a 30 per cent pay cut as evenings and Saturdays will be paid at the standard rate rather than a higher, antisocial hours rate.

The junior doctor at the Northern General added that new contract removes any safeguards to make sure doctors aren’t overworked.

He said: “At the moment, if we think they are working too much, we can submit an appeal and, if successful, the trust can be fined.

“Under the government’s proposals, this would disappear, which means patients could be treated by tired doctors and be put at risk.”

Kirsten Major, director of strategy and operations at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This is a national issue and we will of course respect our doctors decision to take industrial action or not.

“However our first priority is patient care and we will be working with doctors to ensure urgent and emergency care is not affected.

“With regard to other non-urgent services, we will be contacting patients over the coming weeks to let them know if their appointment or treatment will be postponed. We will try and limit the impact of this for patients and also ensure appointment and operation dates are re-arranged as quickly as possible.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged the BMA to call off “the damaging strike.”