Picket line at hospital as doctors strike in row over new contracts

Junior doctors have been picketing outside North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple today (Tuesday).

The strike follows a dispute between the British Medical Council and Department of Health over proposed new contracts which the doctors believe are unfair.

The industrial action runs until 8am tomorrow. Doctors are still providing emergency department cover and every speciality has on-call staff, such as on a bank holiday.

Doctors fear patient safety could be affected if the government’s new plans go ahead.

Currently hospitals that overwork junior doctors face financial penalties, but these would be removed under the new contract.

Doctors would also be asked to work more anti-social hours between 7am-10pm Monday to Saturday but for less money as they would lose their anti-social hours supplement.

It is proposed to halt salary ‘career progression’, so doctors who take a break, such as to study or take part in research, will return to their earlier salary.

Dr Katie Pass, an anaesthetist trainee at NDDH and on the picket line today, said: “We feel devalued, demoralised and the profession is being attacked.

“This strike is only a means to make our voices heard and to show how much resolve there is around the issue.

“We are really against detrimental changes that would affect the safety of patients and the fair treatment of current and future doctors.”

There are some 90-100 junior doctors based at NDDH.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust has said it would have to reschedule 28 operations or procedures if the strike went ahead.

Unless an agreement is reached, a further 48 hour strike is planned for Tuesday, January 26 and a full walk out of all junior doctors on February 10.

* Departments affected by the strike in North Devon can be found on the NHS Trust’s website.