Junior doctors on the picket line outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital say they are striking for patients’ safety and not for the money.
Some 70 operations and 497 appointments were cancelled ahead of the 48-hour walk-out, which will resume at 8am today and end at 5pm.
It is the first strike by junior doctors – those up to consultant level – to include emergency cover in NHS history, and comes as a row with the government over new contracts rumbles on.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is opposing the contract, which the Government said will create a truly seven-day NHS and reduce high weekend death rates, a claim that has sparked anger.
Junior doctors are currently paid more for working unsocial hours at night or at the weekend but, under the new contracts, Saturday day shifts will be paid at a normal rate in return for more basic pay, a proposal the BMA has rejected.
Dr Ramez Ibrahim, who works in intensive care, said doctors cared more about patients’ safety than their wage packets or working hours.
He said yesterday: “We do so much unpaid overtime, so if it was just about the money or hours we would just stop doing that. We are all losing money when we strike, but we are being forced into this position.”
Orthopaedics worker Adrian Pearce joined the picket line after a 24 shift and said creating a seven-day NHS without a pilot could compromise care by leaving medics dangerously stretched.
He said: “I’m very concerned at the changes that are being brought in. We need to make a stand and get somebody to start listening to us about the impact this will have on patient safety.”
The doctors gave hospital visitors free basic life support training yesterday. They will do the same this morning before walking through Blackpool town centre later.
Who does the public blame for the latest strike in this ongoing row?
An Ipsos Mori poll for BBC News found 57 per cent of people support the doctors’ cause while a quarter oppose it.
The majority still think the Government is mostly at fault for the dispute, but a rising number think the Government and doctors are equally to blame.
Public support for the all-out strike, where no emergency care is provided, is higher than it was in January.
While 57 per cent support the current walkout, the figure supporting a full strike was 44 per cent at the start of the year, the survey of 861 adults showed.
Outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital yesterday, passers-by mostly expressed their support of the 30 to 40 striking junior doctors, although there were reports of some dissent.