Defiant junior doctors have gathered outside hospitals in Yorkshire during the first full walk-out in NHS history.
Around 400 junior doctors – all doctors below consultant level – picketed outside Leeds General Infirmary’s Jubilee and Brotherton wings earlier today, with the latter spilling out into Millennium Square.
The protests came as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that Government would not be “blackmailed” into dropping its manifesto pledge for a seven-day NHS by the British Medical Association (BMA).
The bitter row between the Government and BMA saw talks over a new contract for junior doctors break down earlier this year, leading to a series of strikes.
The latest pickets were scheduled to see all juniors leave their posts from 8am to 5pm today and tomorrow.
Dr Phil Atkinson, a junior doctor from Bramhope working in anaesthetics, was among the picketers at LGI today.
He criticised Mr Hunt for trying to create a truly seven-day NHS “in a time of austerity with no extra funds and no extra staff”.
He added: “Come August I think we are going to have an absolute crisis with medical staffing – that’s all caused by this junior doctor dispute.”
Leeds medical students also joined today’s picket alongside NHS campaigners.
Nick Spencer, 24, will graduate in July. He said: “It’s quite disheartening. A lot of my colleagues are already looking, after two years, to go elsewhere.”
Striking Yorkshire juniors have also scheduled a series of events including lifesaving skills workshops, blood drives and rallies.
Mr Hunt has said “exhaustive efforts” have been made by the NHS to ensure patient safety during the industrial action, while calling for junior doctors to reconsider the proposed new contract.
He added: “We are proud of the NHS as one of our greatest institutions but we must turn that pride into actions and a seven-day service.”