Junior doctors at Wythenshawe Hospital braved appalling weather this morning as they began their fourth strike in protest at government plans for a new contract.
As pickets were pelted with rain and hail, local doctor’s union rep, Joe Cohen insisted spirits were not dampened and strikers were determined to win their fight with the government.
As well as this week’s strike and prospect of an all-out strike later this month, the government is facing two legal challenges to the imposition of the new contract, which will see doctors paid less for working weekends.
The government says the changes are needed to improve care at weekends and create a “seven-day service” – a claim disputed by the doctors’ union the British Medical Association.
And Manchester Trades Union Council, which represents unions throughout the city, invites everyone who wants to support the junior doctors to a meeting at the Mechanics Institute on Princess Street on Thursday April 7 at 6.30pm.
The meeting has been called to discuss the setting up support groups of trade unionists, patients and local residents from communities around all the Manchester and Trafford hospitals.
And Mr Cohen, a BMA representative at the Wythenshawe Hospital urged local people to lobby MPs and apply political pressure on the government.
Currently, junior doctors are paid more for working unsocial hours at night or at the weekend, but under the imposed new contracts, the Saturday day shift will be paid at a normal rate in return for a rise in basic pay.
The legal challenges to the contracts come from the BMA and the NHS staff campaign group, Just Health, who both say the contracts have been imposed unfairly and without proper consultation.
In a statement on Just Health’s website set up to raise cash for the legal action, they say: “Our independent action challenges the legality of the Health Secretary’s decision to impose the contract itself; whether he has any legal power to make the decision and whether it has any legal effect.
“Both legal cases complement each other in holding the Government to account on its strategies for decision making on NHS policy and patient care.”
Bosses at Wythenshawe Hospital say patients needing urgent or emergency care will continue to be seen and treated as quickly as possible.
Deputy Chief Executive of the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Wythenshawe Hospital, Silas Nicholls, said: “Any patient scheduled to have treatment at UHSM on Wednesday 6th April or Thursday 7th April and directly affected by this planned industrial action will have been notified of plans. All postponed appointment or operations will be rearranged. If you have a query regarding your appointment please call 0161 291 5197.”