Southwark hospitals are bracing themselves for more than a thousand doctors striking against NHS reforms next month.
If the industrial action goes ahead, scheduled operations at Guy’s, St Thomas’s and King’s will need to be cancelled to ensure emergency services can run.
Full day walk outs are planned following a ballot by the British Medical Association on December 8 and 16 – the first all-out strike by doctors in NHS history. ‘Emergency care only’ action is also scheduled for December 1.
The 28,000 junior doctors who voted for the strike nationally are worried a new contract will see them working longer, more unsociable hours for less, and put a stop to safeguards preventing hospitals form forcing staff to work dangerously long shift patterns.
For the 800 junior doctors at King’s and 700 at Guy’s and St Thomas’s, the unprecedented action is a heart-wrenching decision, according to Chris James, 29, who has been at King’s for three years but was not speaking on behalf of the Trust.
“Doctors at King’s are preparing to stand our ground but it is with a heavy heart,” he told the News. “We are going to fight this – for what we believe in.” “We really don’t want to do it but if strike action is the only way Jeremy Hunt will listen then we will strike,” said Chris, who added that he frequently worked unpaid overtime because patients needed looking after.
“When we’ve got sick patients we don’t leave- that’s accepted,” he said.
“Our concern is the real issues aren’t being addressed because the people above us don’t understand what we do,” he added, saying money needs to be put into community services to free up much needed hospital beds.
Staff are “hopeless” and “demoralised” in the face of increasing demands to do more for less with the difficult winter months ahead, according to Chris, who said the decision to strike was seen as a “last resort.”
Jeremy Hunt has spoken out against the strike, saying it will be very difficult to avoid harm to patients during the strike and that his proposals include an eleven percent pay rise for doctors.
King’s, and Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospital Trusts said they are both working hard to ensure the impact on patients is kept to a minimum and that those who have non-urgent operations cancelled will be contacted before December 1.