JUNIOR doctors at Rotherham Hospital have joined their colleagues across the country in the first-ever full withdrawal of labour.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) — including those providing emergency cover — are holding a strike from 8am until 5pm today and tomorrow.
A spokeswoman for Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust — which runs the hospital — said 147 operations and 173 appointments have been postponed this week as a result.
Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctors’ committee chairman, said: “Today is an incredibly sad day for doctors, and the rest of society.
“These two days of industrial action mark one of the lowest points in the wonderful history of the NHS.
“We deeply regret the disruption caused to patients, but we know experienced staff will be working hard to provide the emergency care they need and it is for the benefit of the same patients and people who need to use the NHS in future that we take this action.
“We have made the Government a clear offer as to what it will take avert industrial action.
“We offered a simple choice — lift imposition and the strikes would be called off, but unfortunately the health secretary simply refuses to do that.
“There is a reason why 54,000 doctors in this country are urging him to lift this imposition and get back round the table.”
The contract changes include the curbing of junior doctors’ pay package and changes to what is classed as “unsociable hours”.
Guaranteed pay increases linked to time in the job are also expected to be scrapped and replaced with a system linked to progression through set training stages.
A spokeswoman for Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust said: “To minimise inconvenience for our patients, the trust has been undertaking significant planning in preparation for the strike action and ‘froze’ a number of these slots in advance of this week.
“All patients whose treatment has been affected have been notified. Therefore, if you have an appointment at the Trust and have not heard from us, you should attend as normal.
“Accident and emergency departments remain open for patients with serious and life threatening conditions. As is always the case, we would urge people to think about the best place to access care if they become ill. Getting the right care, first time, will ensure that they get the best possible treatment, leaving emergency health services free for those who need them most.
“If you become ill with a non-urgent condition and need advice, please visit www.nhs.uk or go to your local pharmacist. If you need medical help but it's not an emergency, call 111, or contact your GP.”