Thousands of operations cancelled ahead of major 48-hour junior doctor strike

Hundreds of Leeds patients will face health care disruption tomorrow as thousands of junior doctors walk out once again amid a contract row with the Government.

Junior doctors striking outside the Jubilee Wing at Leeds General Infirmary last month. Picture by James Hardisty.

The 48-hour ‘emergency care only’ strike will see hundreds of Leeds appointments and operations postponed, prompting officials at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to warn patients through letters this week.

Nationally more than 5,000 procedures have already been cancelled ahead of the walk-out.

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Trainees are picketing outside every major hospital in the region today (March 9) in the third British Medical Association (BMA) strike in recent months.

Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by rossparry.co.uk/ Steven Schofield.

Pickets will also be staged on Thursday morning at all hospitals except those in Mid Yorkshire, where afternoon pickets will start at 1.30pm. Further 48-hour partial walk-outs are due from 8am on April 6 and 26.

Dr Melody Redman, a Yorkshire junior doctor, said: “Most people are really disheartened by what’s happening at the moment. These strikes have been designed to cause inconvenience for the Government while causing as little disruption as possible for patients.”

While urging patients who have not received notice otherwise to attend their appointments, a Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust statement read: “Some patient services will inevitably be affected and regrettably we will need to cancel some outpatient appointments so that we maintain a safe and robust emergency service and so that we can properly look after all of our current inpatients.”

NHS England incident director Dr Anne Rainsberry has warned that this week’s strike, starting at 8am tomorrow, will heap “significantly more pressure on the NHS” as it is twice as long as the previous strikes.

Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by rossparry.co.uk/ Steven Schofield.

She added: “The cumulative effect of these recurring strikes is likely to take a toll.”

This week’s strike follows Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s controversial decision to impose Government’s new junior contract on workers in August.

The row between the BMA and the Government surrounds the conditions of the new deal.

The last remaining sticking point in negotiations was believed to have been Government’s desire to cut the number of ‘unsocial hours’ doctors can receive additional pay for.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and all of Saturday and Sunday attracts premium pay for junior doctors but Government wants the Saturday day shift to be paid at a normal rate in return for a hike in basic pay.

The Health Secretary claims the new deal will mean a basic salary increase of 13.5 per cent.

A Department of Health spokesman said patients have seen more than 19,000 operations cancelled due to the BMA’s “irresponsible” strikes.

He said: “We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the contract and the clear benefits it brings.”

Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA’s junior doctor chair, said strikes were “unavoidable” and urged Government to negotiate.