Yorkshire junior doctors heading to Leeds for #MeetTheDoctors event as strike threat looms

Junior doctors in Yorkshire are taking to the streets in a bid to spread the word about their reasons for voting in favour of strike action.

Around a dozen trainees dressed in scrubs will talk to shoppers outside Boots, in Albion Street, Leeds, on Thursday from 10am, for the second of two #MeetTheDoctors events where juniors engage with the public over their ongoing contract dispute with the Government.

Similar events in Leeds and Sheffield over the weekend saw 1,000 people sign petitions backing doctors ahead of the end of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) strike ballot today.

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Thursday’s event will come after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt sent a letter to the BMA yesterday in a bid to avoid strike action, stating it was “entirely avoidable”.

The junior doctor protest in Victoria Gardens, Leeds.The junior doctor protest in Victoria Gardens, Leeds.
The junior doctor protest in Victoria Gardens, Leeds.

The move was rebuffed by the union, which urged Mr Hunt to drop the threat that the contract will be imposed regardless in August next year.

Rammina Yassaie, a paediatrics trainee living in north Leeds, has helped to organise the two Leeds #MeetTheDoctors events.

Dr Yassaie, who is 28, said: “We’ve been surprised about how much public support we have been getting.

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“When you read some of the newspapers you worry that people might not be getting what we are trying to achieve but it seems they do understand what’s going on and care about their junior doctors.”

She said that the proposed contract is “not safe or fair” as safeguards protecting staff from working unsafe hours would be removed and “despite the spin” many juniors will face a significant wage cut.

Dr Yassaie continued: “We don’t take any of this lightly. No doctor wants to strike and it’s really a last resort we are being pushed into by the Government.”

Thursday’s #Meetthedoctors event will come days after more than 360 senior doctors in Leeds sent a damning open letter to Mr Hunt expressing “grave concerns” over the contract plans and voiced support for their junior colleagues. It followed a high profile demonstration in Leeds city centre attended by around 3,000 junior doctors and supporters.

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Jeremy Hunt made a last-ditch pay offer to juniors in an earlier bid to avoid a strike earlier this month. It included an 11 per cent basic pay rise and a slight concession on the controversial move to redefine overtime – offering extra pay after 7pm on Saturdays as opposed to the previous 10pm.

A strike, if voted for by BMA members, would include a 24-hour “emergency care only” stint and two nine-hour “full walk outs” between December 1 and 16.

The Department of Health has said strike action “puts patients at risk” and has urged the BMA to return to the negotiating table.