Junior doctors in Lincolnshire have vowed to continue their campaign against controversial new contracts being imposed on the profession as the third strike in as many months has begun.
The 48 hour strike has seen a picket line form outside Lincoln County Hospital, with junior doctors being joined by Lincoln councillors and trade unionists from 8am.
Doctors have organised the industrial action in protest at Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposed changes to their contracts, which the government has announced it will force through.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has said that only “a small number” of patient appointments have been cancelled in addition to five operations at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston.
This strike follows previous walk outs on January 12 and February 10, with plans for industrial action on January 26 shelved after discussions between the government and British Medical Association (BMA).
All previous industrial action lasted for 24 hours, making this the longest walk out so far of the dispute.
Further 48 hour strikes have been pencilled in to begin on Wednesday, April 6, and Tuesday, April 26.
The British Medical Association has also said it will launch a judicial review into the government’s decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England, claiming it failed to follow due process.
The mood among the junior doctors on the picket line was sombre, with many of those who spoke to The Lincolnite admitting that they were considering leaving the profession or emigrating.
Tom Smart, who is a local union representative for the BMA, has sent off his CV to work in South Africa this week.
He said: “I’ll probably be leaving the country. If you look at statistics from across the country, application rates for core training and medical school are falling and this is having a drastic effect on the medical profession.”
Junior doctor Chris Busby also said that he was considering his options.
He said: “We’re at this point where we can choose to roll over and let the government carry on with this dismantling of the NHS one step at a time or we can say hold on and do something.
“I love the NHS. I’m British and I like the way it unifies the country and it’s something that British people are proud of. But equally, the factors of life are that you have to balance the books and it may well come to a point where I have to look at other employment options in the UK or employment abroad.”
Both, however, insisted that they would continue to fight and protest against the Health Secretary’s decision.
Chris added: “The government has said that we’ve made a decision and that’s the end of it, and our response is to say ‘hold on, no, this isn’t the end of it, there’s more things that can be done.'”
“But the government feels that they can bully their way through this.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations – over a contract that was 90% agreed with the BMA and which senior NHS leaders including Simon Stevens have endorsed as fair and safe.
“The new contract will mean an average 13.5% basic pay rise, and will bring down the maximum number of hours doctors can work.”