Junior Doctors Strike to Defend the NHS

Junior doctors picketing outside St James's Hospital in Leeds - photo credit Iain Dalton
Junior doctors picketing outside St James’s Hospital in Leeds – photo credit Iain Dalton

Well over a hundred of Junior Doctors picketed the two main hospitals in Leeds, St James’s and the Leeds General Infirmary. Pickets were angry, especially over the insinuation that they’re lazy which the media had been stirring over the past few days. One doctor told me how he was often staying late and starting early to make sure patients were looked after, another commented how her aqnd other staff had had to challenge management before now about how short-staffed her department was.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Although doctors see that the dispute is about more than pay, that is not insignificant. One doctor recounted to me all the fees they have to pay to professional associations that are legal requirements, plus having to fund their own future training and exams if they wish to development their capabilities further and progress their careers.

The support from the public came across loud and clear, deafeningly so at times with the numbers of drivers passing the hospital tooting in support. Coffees, chocolate and other picketting supplies were donated by consultants, whilst numerous patients stopped to talk to pickets and express their support, with perhaps the clearest indication of the mood being one woman who simply said “I support you – Hunt must go!”

The need to co-ordinate action in defence of the NHS with other sections of workers as well as students was seen as key by many of the pickets, especially linking up with student nurses whose bursaries are under threat. Indeed, many of the doctors expressed a feeling that nurses are getting it worse than them. As one picket commented “We have a responsibility – if Jeremy Hunt forces through what he’s doing to us, then it will be other groups of workers in the NHS who are next!”

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