Homerton Hospital Picket Line

‘The NHS is our baby’: junior doctors join the picket line outside Homerton Hospital. Photograph: Ruth-Anna Macqueen

More than 100 senior medics at Homerton Hospital have showed their solidarity with striking junior doctors, and have pledged to cover emergency and urgent care during the two-day walkout that began this morning.

In an email seen by the Hackney Citizen, 105 senior doctors at the Homerton passed on their support to their striking junior colleagues, and assured them they would be “pulling together to provide emergency and urgent care” during the two-day walk out.

Junior doctors across the country are today staging the first all-out strike in NHS history in protest against the Department of Health’s plans to ‘impose’ a new employment contract.

Over 200 doctors at the Homerton are eligible for strike action and have been in talks with hospital management for weeks to ensure that emergency and urgent care is covered by non-striking doctors.

The nation-wide strike is expected to lead to the postponement of nearly 13,000 routine operations and more than 100,000 appointments across the country as NHS managers try to free up staff to cover the gaps.

Governors of the Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust wrote to the Trust’s management expressing their concern over “unresolved issues” between the government and the British Medical Association (BMA) that have “the potential to cause continued damage to staff morale and inconvenience to patients”.

The governors called on both sides to return to the negotiating table, adding: “We should like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude, admiration and support for all the staff working at the Trust in what are very difficult times.”

Homerton Hospital picket line

Photograph: Ruth-Anna Macqueen

Danny Turton, a local BMA junior doctor representative told the Hackney Citizen: “I’m really worried about the impact the contract will have on the future of the NHS.

“On a principled level, imposition of the contract is an unbelievable, disrespectful and aggressive stance to take.

“It is completely unprecedented, a disaster for employer-employee relations and unnecessary.”

“Hunt has talked about a ‘nuclear option’ against the very people he calls the backbone of the NHS. It leads me to the only conclusion that they want to have a fight with the junior doctors.”

Today’s walkout will end at 5pm today, with further strikes planned for tomorrow between 8am and 5pm.

Sarah Wikeley, a junior doctor at Homerton Hospital, said: “I was apprehensive that people might not understand our reasons, but we’ve actually had way more support than any of the previous strikes.”

Dr Martin Kuper, Medical Director of the Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has asked residents to look for possible alternatives to going to A&E during the strike, such as visiting a GP or seeking advice at a pharmacy. “The A&E department will be adequately staffed with senior doctors but it will be busy. However, do of course come to A&E if you have a serious condition,” said Dr Kuper.

But Dr Kuper added: “Junior doctors undertake a significant amount of work within our Trust and are a key component of clinical teams. We have been working with our clinical teams to review contingency plans and ensure services are maintained safely. So far these plans have worked well.

“Our priority is to ensure that there is minimal impact on emergency care to provide suitable clinical cover to ensure that we continue to provide high quality care which is safe for our patients.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible – and will inevitably put patients in harm’s way.

“If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.”

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