Addenbrooke’s junior doctors join national strike action

Bea Lundy 14 January 2016

Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge took part in a national strike, which began on Tuesday morning. The strikes were in protest of proposed reforms to contracts which would change the hours doctors were obliged to work.

While a group of 200 strikers and supporters gathered around 8am on Tuesday outside Addenbrooke’s, 210 additional junior doctors continued to work to provide only emergency cover to patients over the 24 hours. Another 100 medical staff who were not working joined the picket.

The aim of the strike was to draw attention to the reforms – deemed as unfair by many in the Health Service – to junior doctors’ contracts proposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Dr Yezen Sheena, a plastic surgery registrar at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and a speaker at the rally on Tuesday, explained that in regards to spreading the workforce over a seven-day week, “where GPs have piloted such a service, the uptake has been really poor”.

“Patients don’t really want to come in on a Sunday for routine things. Patients are not asking for it, so why are the government asking for that seven-day week without any reasonable provision?”

Outside Addenbrooke’s, the doctors and nurses were joined by Cambridge University medical students who stood in solidarity with their future counterparts. Harry Holkham, a first-year medical student who attended the picket, offered his reasons for joining: “These longer hours and pay cuts are not only unfair, but they are also unsafe. In addition the arguments put forward by Mr Hunt are not truthful.”

While Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner could not attend the strike, he gave his support to those involved: “It is because doctors care that they are protesting today. The changes being imposed by the Government will harm today’s junior doctors, medic students who will be the lifeblood of our NHS in the future and, of course, patients.”

He continued: “This is an unnecessary dispute, generated by Jeremy Hunt, and it is for him to end it. I hope that the Government will take note of the strength of feeling and think again. It is never too late to come to the right conclusion.”

However, Jeremy Hunt has attacked the strike as “wholly unneccessary”, saying that he wants “all NHS patients to have the confidence that they will get the same high quality care every day of the week.”

The junior doctors also received support from other groups, including Unison and Unite, paramedics, police officers, the Fire Brigades Union and the fire service along with campaign groups Save Our NHS group and Cambridge Health Emergency.