South Tyneside doctors walk out in national strike
Pickets are lined up outside South Tyneside District Hospital this morning as part of a walk-out by thousands of junior doctors nationwide .
And hospital bosses are urging patients not to overload services as industrial action continues.Staff at South Tyneside District Hospital walked out today in the first of three planned stoppages in a row over pay.Across England, around 4,000 operations and procedures were been cancelled, with thousands more routine appointments also expected to be postponed.Clinical teaching fellow Lily Shevlin was among those taking part in this morning's action at South Tyneside: “The support from the public has been fantastic,” she said.“People have been pulling over, bringing us cakes, bringing us sweets. The buses and ambulances have been beeping on the way past.“It has been a difficult moral decision for all of us but we believe the contract they are trying to impose will be unsafe for doctors and patients.”Ian Frame, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s Executive Director, Personnel and Development, said: “We would like to assure the public everything was done to minimise disruption to services at South Tyneside District Hospital, while ensuring patient safety was not compromised in any way.“We have robust plans in place to deal with a range of potential disruptions and in advance of this action management and medical colleagues held regular meetings and we also met with representatives of the British Medical Association to ensure we were fully prepared.“As a result, although some clinics and procedures had to be cancelled, it was, largely, ‘business as usual’.“We will be keeping the situation under constant review. In the meantime, we are experiencing significant seasonal demand on our services and we would ask people to remember that A&E is for patients whose condition is urgent or life-threatening.“By not automatically turning up at A&E with problems that could be better dealt with by a GP or pharmacist, they can help us to efficiently manage the very sick. Anyone unsure of where to go can call NHS 111.” Talks aimed at resolving the dispute over a new contract failed on Friday, although further talks will continue.Junior doctors are providing emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am this morning.This will be followed by a 48-hour stoppage and the provision of emergency care only from 8am on January 26.On February 10, there will be a full withdrawal of labour from 8am to 5pm.The basis for the current round of negotiations is the Government's offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay for junior doctors.This is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay for unsocial hours.Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay.Under the Government's offer, junior doctors would receive time-and-a-half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time-and-a-third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.The BMA has said there are still several areas of dispute, despite Mr Hunt saying the only sticking point is weekend pay.In an interview over the weekend, Mr Hunt said the Government was going through the "exhaustive process" of contacting every A&E department in the country to establish whether they would have enough staff to stay open.But he admitted "hospitals are stretched at the moment".Unite head of health Barrie Brown said: "Unite's 100,000 members in the health service will be giving the doctors maximum support within the bounds of the law by joining protests outside their working hours and taking to social media to highlight their support."The fact that this is the first industrial action by doctors since 1975 demonstrates the cack-handed and ideological way that ministers have dealt with the NHS since 2010 - the chickens have come home to roost."RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT members are urged to join the picket lines at their local hospital tomorrow to show solidarity with the junior doctors at this crucial point in their fight for justice."