Striking junior doctors in Leeds, keen to do more than simply down tools, have mucked in to help flood-battered businesses in Kirkstall today.
Hundreds of trainees took to pickets outside Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) and St James’s Hospital amid a contract dispute with the Government but many later offered their hands to help others.
A group of trainees, who were among the thousands to stage industrial action, cleared out soaked stock from takeaways and warehouses during the relief effort.
At the main junior doctor strike picket outside LGI’s Jubilee Wing dozens of scrub-clad clinicians were joined by union officials, students, patient groups and members of the public as they sounded their discontent over contractual changes proposed by the Government.
Placards stating everything from ‘Protect our hours = protect our patients’ to the tongue-in-cheek slogan ‘What would Bowie do? #istherelifeonMRSA’ were waved as passing drivers bibbed their car horns in support.
The protest comes amid a 24-hour period of ‘emergency care only’ staffing among junior doctors nationwide, which follows the breakdown in contractual talks between the British Medical Association (BMA) and Government officials last Monday.
More than 400 appointments and around 50 non-urgent operations at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) were affected by the industrial action.
Rammina Yassaie, BMA representative at LTH, said: “We do care about our patients, our country and the NHS so even on our strike days we want to contribute positively.”
One of the businesses to benefit from the aid of junior doctors was Country Blinds & Awnings in Kirkstall, which was under 30 inches of water during the worst of the flooding – rendering stock and machinery worthless.
Lesley Castelow, a director of the firm, said it is working from temporary offices and hopes it can get back to business soon. She said: “I was surprised, I didn’t know who was going to be volunteering. It shows they have great community spirit.”
The BMA’s other planned strikes include a 48-hour period of emergency care only from January 26 and a full nine-hour walk-out on February 10.
Phil Atkinson, 32, from Bramhope, a junior doctor working in anaesthetics attended the picket outside LGI’s Jubilee Wing.
“I sincerely hope that we are getting our message out,” he said. “The whole point of this is up until now is that the Government still aren’t taking the concerns of 50,000 frontline junior doctors seriously.
“I call on the Prime Minister directly to act – the medical profession has clearly lost faith in the Health Secretary. He should personally oversee these talks and get a result so that we can get back to what we love doing.”
He continued: “The idea patients are coming to harm as a result of disruption caused today I don’t agree with although I accept there is disruption and I apologise for that but we have no other choice.”
The strikes come amid a dispute over the reform of junior doctor contracts. The Government’s last offer includes an 11 per cent basic pay rise. But this is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend for which juniors can claim extra pay for unsocial hours.
The BMA argues that the proposed changes make the contract “unsafe and unfair” on both doctors and patients as it would also see working hour safeguards scrapped. The Government says its changes are necessary in its aim for a “truly seven-day NHS” and claims that only one per cent of doctors would lose pay.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the strikes as “unnecessary”, urging the BMA to return to negotiations as the Government will “go back to Acas any day”.