A mass march by health campaigners in Leeds will be bolstered by scores of junior doctors as around 1,000 people voice fears over NHS reform next week.
Disgruntled trainees, who are staging strike action today amid a Government contract dispute, are expected to join forces with Keep Our NHS Public protestors on April 16.
The ‘March For The NHS Leeds’ event has already garnered support from more than 800 people on Facebook, with all comers being invited to join the event starting outside Leeds Art Gallery at 12.15pm.
News of the demonstration came as it emerged that almost 25,000 operations have been cancelled as a result of repeated strike action by junior doctors in England.
Junior doctors will speak at a rally at Victoria Gardens, where 3,000 gathered in protest at the contract dispute in October, as well as local MPs, consultants and academics from 1.15pm.
A statement from Keep Our NHS Public said the march aimed to “send a strong message from Yorkshire to Downing Street that we will not let this Government dismantle our NHS by splitting it up, selling it off, starving it of funds and attacking NHS staff”.
Junior doctors will picket outside every major hospital in Yorkshire from 8am today in a 48-hour ‘emergency care only’ walk-out as the increasingly bitter row between doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) and Government continues.
NHS England has revealed that more than 5,100 operations have already been postponed as a result of this week’s walk-out alone.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which is among the region’s largest trusts, has sent letters warning affected patients ahead of this week’s strike. Around 600 outpatient clinics have been postponed in Leeds.
Dr Anne Rainsberry, national incident director for NHS England, said: “We’ve already seen that a 48-hour strike puts considerably more pressure on the NHS and it’s deeply regrettable that thousands of patients are still facing disruption because of this recurring action.”
Yesterday, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) said it had written to the Health Select Committee asking it to conduct and inquiry into the “escalating crisis” relating to the contract.
Professor Derek Bell, president of the RCPE, said: “If we do not resolve this dispute, the impact on our patients, the NHS workforce and the long-term sustainability of the NHS will be profound.”
Earlier this year Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said a controversial new contract will be imposed on trainees from August, insisting that it is a “good deal” for doctors.
The move prompted the BMA to announce more walk-outs including nine-hour full strikes on both April 26 and 27.
A Department of Health spokeswoman added: “This strike is irresponsible and disproportionate, and with almost 25,000 operations cancelled so far, it is patients who are suffering.”