Junior doctors picketing in Eastbourne during national strike action yesterday (January 12) were supported by a group of local campaigners.
Members of the Eastbourne People’s Assembly Against Austerity joined doctors on the picket line outside Eastbourne DGH to support members of the British Medical Association (BMA) taking part in the strike.
The 24-hour strike, over proposed changes to junior doctors pay and working conditions, is the first strike by hospital doctors in 40 years.
In a statement a spokesman for the group said, “The EPA sees the junior doctors dispute with the Government as yet another episode in the ongoing saga of ever more limitations and stresses imposed upon the NHS as a result of the unfair, economically illiterate and unnecessary austerity policies of the Government.
“These policies have undermined the NHS and driven the doctors, nurses, and other health professions into impossibly difficult situations.”
Speaking at the picket, EPA member Brian Wilkes said, “I wanted to show my support today for the junior doctors and their fight for a fair contract. Their fight is also a fight to protect patient safety and the future of the NHS.”
The group is also calling for the Government to restart negotiations ahead of a second round of strikes scheduled to take place between January 26 and 28.
Previous talks saw both sides reach agreement on 15 of 16 issues up for negotiation leaving only a dispute over changes to weekend pay.
The disputed contract would see Saturdays and weekday evening hours (7pm to 10pm) re-classified as normal working hours, meaning doctors would no longer be paid an increased rate for unsociable hours.
The BMA says it fears the changes would lead to both a cut in pay and to unsafe working conditions for both staff and patients.
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the changes are necessary to improve weekend care in hospitals and says any loss of overtime income would be covered by an 11 per cent increase to the average doctors basic pay.
He also says the new contract would see a doctor’s working week strictly limited to 72 hours – down from 91 hours currently allowed.
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