Worry as doctors set to strike three times next month
Lancashire hospitals are facing widescale disruption after junior doctors voted to go on strike in a contract row with the Government.
The first walk out is scheduled for December 1, when they will provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am. This will be followed by full walkouts from 8am to 5pm on December 8 and 16.
Now Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley Hospitals, is preparing to cancel operations and clinics.
Karen Swindley, workforce and education director of the Trust said: “Inevitably, industrial action on this scale will have some effect on how services are run.
“We have reviewed staffing levels and services, and have made the decision to cancel some clinics and operating lists to enable us to redeploy the workforce throughout the hospitals on the days when industrial action is planned.”
She said patient safety was the priority and the hospital would be in touch with patients affected.
The BMA said it was still keen to avoid strike action and is looking for talks with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS Employers.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council, said: “We regret the inevitable disruption that this will cause but it is the Government’s adamant insistence on imposing a contract that is unsafe for patients in the future, and unfair for doctors now and in the future, that has brought us to this point.”
Changes to the Junior Doctors’ Contract include scrapping safeguards stopping doctors working when they are too tired, and reclassifying which hours qualify for premium pay.
Yesterday Mr Hunt said the strike decision was “regrettable”.
He said: “We want to ensure that patients have the same quality of care across the week, and have put forward a generous offer that increases basic pay by 11 per cent and reduces doctors’ hours. We hope that junior doctors will consider the impact of this action - especially the withdrawal of emergency care - will have on patients and reconsider.”
Dr David Wrigley, BMA representative for Lancashire, said: “This is an unprecedented response, but junior doctors in Lancashire are doing this with a heavy heart.
“They have been forced into this by a Government threatening to impose something BMA members believe will lead to stressed and tired doctors. This isn’t about pay, it’s about safety. The contract will also be very unfair on doctors who work part time, who take maternity leave, and those doing research.”
Unions have backed the BMA but some are warning of “severe” risks to patient care.