Harrogate rallies in support as junior doctors begin strike action

Junior doctors in Harrogate
Junior doctors in Harrogate

Harrogate has rallied behind the town's junior doctors who went on strike this morning in a dispute with the government over proposed new contracts.

Junior doctors walked out across the country at 8.00am, January 12, with doctors providing emergency care only during the 24-hour strike.

Dozens of junior doctors have been picketing outside Harrogate Hospital and on Wetherby Road this morning, with passers by continually voicing their support for the cause.

Luke Brown, a trainee GP, said the decision to strike had been made with a 'heavy heart' but said the support they had received from the public had been overwhelming.

He said: "We would love not to have to strike, as a whole I know that if we could avoid the situation then we would.

"However, the changes that have been proposed in the new contracts are not safe and the government are not listening to our concerns.

"We are concerned over the safeguarding of the maximum hours a doctor can work in a week as, under the new contract, there will be an open door for doctors going back to work long and unsafe hours.

"When people are tired they make mistakes and that's why doctors are concerned by the new contracts and patients should be too."

Harrogate Hospital has said up to 40 outpatient appointments have been re-arranged because of the strike, but all surgical operations would go ahead as planned.

Robert Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Like all NHS organisations, we have tried and tested plans to deal with a range of disruptions, including industrial action.“

“The proposed industrial action will affect our blood clinic service. We ask that patients who have been asked by their GP to come to hospital for a blood test consider coming on another day if at all possible.

"On the days of industrial action waiting times are likely to be very long. Some outpatients clinics will be disrupted and we will be contacting individual patients directly if there are any changes."

Mr Harrison added that patients requiring urgent and emergency care would continue to receive necessary and imminent treatment.

The walk-out comes after talks between the union and government failed to reach agreement on the contract. The BMA is concerned about pay for weekend working, career progression and safeguards to protect doctors from being over-worked.

But ministers have argued the current arrangements are outdated and changes needed to improve standards of care at the weekend.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, claimed the strikes were putting patients at risk but junior doctors in Harrogate said the public had been 'extremely supportive' of their cause.

David Mattinson, house officer, said: "The reaction to the strike has been really good, most of the residents here are extremely positive about our situation the majority of the time.

"Most of them understand we don't want to strike but we're at the point where we don't have any other options.

"We are really grateful for it and we want to say we are sorry for the disruption and the decision to strike has been taken with a heavy heart."

North Yorkshire Police officers dropped off snacks for the junior doctors picketing this morning while many motorists beeped their horn in an audible display of support.

Junior doctor Gary Hannant, said he believed that the strike showed the government they were not an easy target for cuts.

He said: " I don't think we are an easy target at all, we are more difficult to manage than the government ever thought we would be.

"They thought our need to do the so-called right thing would mean we would always back down from a strike on the grounds of patient safety.

"But, the government need to realise that this is a line that needs to be drawn in the sand. If we didn't strike then we could have no arguments if the contracts were imposed on us."