Strike action by junior doctors hits Sheffield hospitals

Junior doctor strike at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.
Junior doctor strike at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.

Hospitals across South Yorkshire are offering reduced services today as junior doctors go on strike in a row over contracts.

Dozens of junior doctors are gathered outside the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and Shefield Children’s hospital today and will provide emergency care only until 8am tomorrow.

Ben Winter, aged 25, a junior doctor at the picket line outside the Royal Hallamshire Hospital said: “The government are trying to take away the safeguards surrounding the hours we work.

“My girlfriend is a midwife and works a lot of nights so for me it would mean more hours where I need childcare and less money to pay for it.”

Patients in Sheffield have been warned some operations will be postponed or rearranged, while there are expected to be longer waiting times than normal at the Northern General and the Royal Hallamshire during the strike.

A Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: “Patients in need of urgent and emergency care will continue to receive the treatment they need, when they need it.

“However, due to increased pressures on the NHS over this period, those in less urgent need of care may experience longer waiting times than normal and some elective operations may need to be postponed or rearranged.

“In all cases priority will be given to those patients with the most pressing health needs.”

Dr Zak McMurray, GP and Medical Director at NHS Sheffield CCG, said, “As ever, the safety and care of patients is our top priority in Sheffield and robust plans are in place. We have been working with providers across the city to ensure we can continue to protect the safety and welfare of our patients and provide the urgent services they may need.

“We would encourage people who already have appointments or elective operations scheduled to check arrangements with the service provider and rearrange them if necessary.

“We would also urge people to take extra special care of their own health over this period – and to look out for more vulnerable members of their families and communities.”

Sheffield Children’s Hospital said it is expecting a ‘small number of appointments’ to be rearranged but added that its emergency services will be ‘completely unaffected’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said it is vital that an agreement was reached “quickly” on the dispute, which could lead to four days of industrial action, with further strikes planned for later this month and in February.

Boris Johnson has said the British Medical Association (BMA) leadership “is in the grip of advanced Corbynitis. They need to get back round the table”.

In advice to patients, NHS England said: “Urgent and emergency care services will be available as normal but hospitals are expected to be under additional pressure.

“Where possible, people should contact their GP, seek advice from their local pharmacist, call NHS 111 or consult the NHS Choices website.

“Where it is an emergency, people should call 999 or go directly to A&E.

“GP services will be available as normal and we would encourage anyone who thinks they will need an appointment to organise this before industrial action begins.

“People should be particularly attentive to their health over this period and look out for more vulnerable members of their families and communities.”

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute over a new contract failed on Friday, although further talks will continue.

Junior doctors are set to provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday.

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 per cent 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.