Junior doctors’ continued their strike action today against the imposition of a new, damaging contract and in defence of the NHS, with a full walkout between 8am and 5pm. Despite continued attacks from Tory ministers, many picket lines today were much bigger than those on previous strike days. Here are a selection of reports, photos and videos from picket lines around the country.
Nick Evans visited two big, upbeat picket lines at the Royal Free and University College Hospital in London this morning:
The junior doctors at the Royal Free will be there until midday, and the picket at UCH will last until shortly before they leave to join the march from St. Thomas’s to the Department of Health at 5pm this evening. Lots of people honking their horns as they drove past both pickets. At UCH they were pleased by the public support, but know they have a real fight on their hands as Cameron is backing up Hunt’s intransigent stance. They had a special message to medical students: “we’re behind you all the way.” They pointed out that many of the “concessions” that the DoH are using to try to sell the contract to junior doctors won’t apply for new trainees. “It must be really hard for people just about to start, seeing how demoralised we all are. We’re striking for them as much as anything.” Just before I left, a young in-patient’s father brought the junior doctors two large boxes of doughnuts. “Thank you for everything you have done for us,” he said. Heidi Alexander should visit the pickets. She’s missing out.
The mood was still strong when Adam DC visited the UCH picket line at lunchtime:
The biggest and most well attended picket I’ve seen yet in this series of strike actions. The solidarity from the public, from honking horns to sweets and cakes was fantastic, and mainly given in the form of doughnuts, which should cause any self respecting endocrinologists and dieticians serious concerns! The mood on the picket line was defiant, despite the unseasonal wintry weather.
In south east London, Colin Revolting visited picket lines at the Joan Roan school and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital:
Two picket lines in one morning. As well as the national junior doctors strike against an imposed contract, teachers at John Roan school are on strike against restructuring and redundancies. The parallels are clear. Picketing teachers signed a solidarity card for the doctors with many messages of support and sent me off on my bike to Queen Elizabeth Hospital a mile or so away.
15 minutes later I nearly fell off my bike at the sight of the Hospital picket line. It was three times as big as at previous strike days.
Young strikers talked about the chronic conditions they, other hospital workers and patients have to endure.
Despite the biased BBC and other mainstream media coverage, one of the JDs was pleased to say “A poll regarding today’s strike shows 57% public support. And that’s compared to 44% for the strikes in January.”
Its possible to think you know about the working lives of Junior Doctors. But every time I speak to them on the pickets I learn more. If anyone reading this is able to get to a picket line tomorrow I urge them to do so. The government recognise the importance of this dispute to their project of privatising the health service. As patients, parents, teachers, doctors, whoever – we need to do the same and up our game.
In Carlisle there were around 30 people on the picket line, reports Joe Sabatini.
This was the best turn out by far on the days so far. The public support was stronger, more drivers tooting and shouting encouragement, some doing the football toot, beep beep/ beep-beep-beep/ beep-beep/ beep-beep/ beep beep.
The discussions were excellent and we were able to talk much more broadly about a range of issues relating to the government in crisis, why Jeremy Corbyn needs to show more up front leadership, how the Tories are running down the whole of society and much more. We also talked about the 1989 Ambulance Strike, as there are parallels with the way Ken Clarke took on the NHS and Hunt today. We also talked about learning about it in terms of a protracted dispute.
Also the NUT local branch secretary joined the picket line and engaged in discussions with strikers and with the Branch Secretary of the BMA. We are hoping that this will enable closer co-operation and contact, leading potentially to public meetings and a demo in Carlisle. The local RMT secretary also joined the picket and brought coffees and sandwiches.
I also managed to get to speak to an ex-colleague who works for the hospital trust’s HR department. She was counting the numbers out, and claimed it was over 70, which is amazing for a hospital in a small city like Carlisle. She said this was the biggest turn out so far. She also confirmed that the consultants were covering back in the hospital and there were no problems – she was a bit unsure when I suggested that this is good and will enable the strike to win. I then said that even though she works for HR, she could support the strike as it would mean more hassel for her team if the contract is imposed on top of everything else they have to do.
Overall a very buoyant mood and an excellent turn out.
At the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, John Walker reports that it was also the largest picket of the dispute so far, with over 80 people there – a huge increase from the six of the first picket:
The mood amongst the doctors was good – “angry” two of them told me – and there was more honking than ever from passing motorists. Jeremy Hunt’s mishandling of the dispute seems to have increased the resilience of both the junior doctors and their supporters.
The general atmosphere on the picket demonstrated a growth in self-confidence. They are also getting to learn how how to behave on a picket. One junior doctor brought along cooking equipment and made pancakes for her colleagues.
Brian Parkin reports from Leeds General Infirmary:
Over 400 junior doctors converged on the entrances of the Leeds General Infirmary in what was the biggest, angriest and most buoyant strike protest so far. A continual stream of nurses and medical technicians as well as paramedics and members of the public kept the numbers swelled and the mood almost celebratory. Throughout the morning the pickets were visited by groups of university and local government workers, often with union branch banners and contributions.
Many of the doctors I spoke to volunteered that nurses and teachers are now clearly in the Tories sights. With nursing bursaries and consultants contracts up for grabs, they were the first in the queue for an all-out assault on public services and their workers terms and conditions.
As well as visiting picket lines in solidarity with striking junior doctors, activists also took action this morning to Picket the Profiteers, targeting those who stand to make money from privatised healthcare. Colin Barker participated in the actions in Manchester:
20 or so demonstrators visited four sites in Manchester this morning, chanting “Tax The Rich, Take Their Wealth, Spend It on … Public Health” and other slogans. First we went to the main store of Boots the Chemist, a notorious tax evader. Then onto to the offices of Virgin Money (Virgin Health doesn’t have a city centre office, but it’s all part of the notorious Richard Branson empire), where the bosses rapidly closed the doors. After that we visited the offices of Capita, another company making pots of money from the privatisation of healthcare. Here Xen, a junior doctor from Oldham, reminded us that there are already serious staff shortages in the NHS: 7% of junior doctor posts and 10% of nursing posts are unfilled. The building manager wanted to call the police, but couldn’t stop us demonstrating. Finally we visited the offices of Care UK, yet another company ripping off the NHS wholesale. At each venue speakers outlined the dirty business the privateering profiteers were involved in. A very “anti-profitable” morning’s work.