Harrogate junior doctors take part in historic all-out strike action

Harrogate's junior doctors
Harrogate's junior doctors

Junior doctors in Harrogate have labelled today's first all-out doctor's strike in the history of the NHS as an 'incredibly momentous yet sad' day.

The strike is the latest stage in the ongoing dispute between the BMA and the government over the imposition of new contacts on junior doctors.

As a result, 67 junior doctors walked out of routine and Harrogate Hospital at 8am along with thousands of their colleagues across the country.

Further all-out strike action is due to take place tomorrow, April 27, between the same hours with consultants and middle-grade doctors covering the absences.

Harrogate's junior doctors came out in force on Wetherby Road this morning with banners, placards and props to enforce their message that the contracts are 'unfair and unsafe'.

Members of the public voiced their support throughout the morning before a group marched into the town centre to answer more questions about the strike.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has stressed the contracts represent a 13 pay rise for the doctors and would result in a seven-day-a-week NHS.

However, junior doctor Jo Johnson said it was unsafe to 'stretch' a five-day service over seven days without committing more investment to training and retaining staff.

She said: "The whole situation makes me feel horrible because it's taking me away from a job I love and that I'm very passionate about, a job where I will often do more hours than I am required to do.

"I love the NHS and I love the job that I'm doing so to feel that I have no other option than to stop working for a day, putting pressure on my colleagues because they are doing extra work to cover for me, is horrible.

"I can only hope and continue to be positive because I don't know what else we can do. It's another way of us making it clear that we need the support of the government to continue what we are doing."

Despite 262 outpatient appointments and 29 elective operations being postponed as a result of the strike, Ms Johnson said the reaction in Harrogate was still 'overwhelmingly supportive'.

She said the support meant a lot for the striking doctors, especially as the dispute centred around ensuring patient's safety more so than disagreements over pay.

"We need to have a long term plan in place to train and retain junior doctors to continue giving the same high quality service that the NHS deserves," Ms Johnson said.

"That can only be done on a long term basis, there's no short term solution, it needs proper investment and the full support of the government."

"The government have done a sample rota and when you look at the hours we're working, the lack of breaks in between normal shifts.

"If this contract comes in I will be too tired to work, I make big decisions as a junior doctor and I know from experience that's very difficult to do when you are tired.

"They need to realise that we're not greedy and wanting more pay. We are genuinely more concerned about the future of the NHS."

Mr Hunt has criticised the strike and said the government has done all it could to resolve the dispute and that junior doctors were 'crossing a line'.

The health secretary also said the strikes were not a 'proportionate' response but Ms Johnson disagreed because of its potential impact on safety and the future of the NHS.

She said: "We are at a stage where we are having to do something we never wanted to do, but we believe in our cause so much that we feel we have to do it.

"It's such a huge day but it's also an incredibly sad one because the situation has escalated to a point where this has been allowed to happen.

"It's unbelievable that we are at this stage but the government are still talking about a seven-day NHS when we already work weekends and nights.

"We are not complaining about that but what we are worried about is that they are trying to stretch the NHS when we are already at breaking point."