'Furious' junior doctors strike again in Harrogate in contract dispute

Junior doctors on strike in Harrogate (s)
Junior doctors on strike in Harrogate (s)

Junior doctors in Harrogate said they were ‘furious’ they had been forced to strike again today over proposed new contracts.

Today was the second time in a month that junior doctors decided to walk out on strike in their ongoing argument with the government after picketing for 24 hours on January 12.

A total of 54 doctors protested on Wetherby Road and Lancaster Park Road throughout the day, up from 45 in January, with residents again showing their support.

Deborah Goldfield, a junior doctor at Harrogate Hospital said that a number of residents, young and old, had backed them during the day.

She said: “There was lots of local support today with people turning up with cakes they had baked and school children with BMA badges on.

“Teenagers turned up saying they had watched the Andrew Marr show and couldn’t believe what Jeremy Hunt was doing. They even said some of their friends had now decided not to go into medicine.

“The big point is doctors are already stretched but the government want to stretch us even further. We are worried about patient safety.

“The government want us top work longer hours for less pay. At no point have we asked for a pay rise. This time we are not prepared to work for less than we are at the moment.”

The walk-out comes after talks between the union and government failed to reach agreement on the contract. The BMA is concerned about pay for weekend working, career progression and safeguards to protect doctors from being over-worked.

But ministers have argued the current arrangements are outdated and changes needed to improve standards of care at the weekend.

No operations had been cancelled at Harrogate Hospital as a result of the strike action but 68 outpatient appointment have been postponed, up from 40 in January.

Dr Goldfield said that her and colleagues were striking with a heavy heart but were doing so to protect the future of the NHS from doctors deciding to work abroad.

She said: “The support is there but there’s only a certain amount of time the public will be sympathetic about it.

“We are furious about having to go on strike over the contracts. Everybody in the profession thinks ‘no we can’t go on strike’ but this seems like the only way forward.”

Robert Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital had worked hard to minimise disruption to patients, as they did in January.

He said: “Our main priority remains patient safety. We are continuing to plan to ensure we robustly protect the safety and welfare of patients and ensure that services continue to be provided.”