There was huge support from the public for junior doctors who formed a picket line outside the Horton General Hospital’s main entrances during their strike today (Tuesday).
Oxford Road and Hightown Road in Banbury were noisy streets as motorists honked their horns to give encouragement to the doctors whose strike is taking place over two days to include the emergency department.
Consultants, supportive of the junior doctors’ opposition to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s determination to impose a new work contract on them, are covering their responsibilities.
On Monday Mr Hunt said the introduction of a seven-day NHS was on the first line of the first page of the Conservative manifesto that the electorate had voted for.
But the junior doctors - that is all doctors beneath consultant grade - say the NHS is already run on a seven-day basis.
“We have a seven day NHS already. All junior doctors work weekends anyway. We get a set salary for a rota that is set for four or six months and there is a banding for unsocial hours,” said Dr Victoria Fotheringham.
“At the moment we have five days fully covered with emergency cover at weekends so if you came in with an emergency condition you will be attended to by doctors.
“Jeremy Hunt wants every day to be the same but without putting in any extra resources. Because of the finite number of doctors that will thin out weekday staff.”
The doctors say working longer hours with fewer staff will be dangerous for patients.
And they say doing more over weekends for the same pay will discriminate against female doctors who have to pay for childcare.
Dr Ian Carr, who intends to become a GP in Chipping Norton, said the government was taking on junior doctors first because they are ‘low hanging fruit’.
“There are 55,000 junior doctors but they can’t work longer hours without the support staff, nurses, therapists and others. So they will be next in line to have their contracts changed,” he said.
“Nurses know this and they are supporting us, coming out on marches. Already the government has scrapped the bursaries that help them afford training.
“Even the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Pay Review body states that once this is imposed on junior doctors it will be imposed on nurses, therapists and others.”
Dr Fotheringham, 25, said she has done six years in university and would like to become a consultant anaesthetist. However if too many unsocial hours were forced on doctors she would leave the profession.
“An emergency consultant who gave us a careers talk recently told us that where in the past ten - 15 per cent of doctors might consider emigrating to work, now it is 70 - 80 per cent,” she said.
The Oxford University Hospitals Trust said patients’ routine operations or appointments cancelled as a result of the strike would be rearranged.
Junior doctors will be out in force at Church Green in Witney on Saturday at a rally at which Johann Malawana, a British obstetrician who is the Chair of the Junior Doctors Committee of the British Medical Association (BMA) will be speaking.