Big support for Calderdale Royal Hospital junior doctors' strike
Wednesday, 13 January 2016
There was strong support for the Calderdale Royal Hospital Junior Doctors' strike on Tuesday 12 January.
As well as a junior doctors' picket, NHS campaigners and members of the public turned out, and busy passing traffic honked support.
Nearly all the passers by and patients entering and leaving Calderdale Royal Hospital said they understood why the junior doctors had to strike.
Ciaran O'Neill, a foundation doctor at Calderdale Royal Hospital, said, "The proposed contract is not safe or fair. The government has failed to agree to safeguards which would limit the amount of hours junior doctors work - which we feel is key to patient safety. We do not want to be put into a position of care when we are too tired and overworked to make sensible decisions for our patients.
"Going on strike is a difficult decision and not one we have taken lightly. The NHS is running today as it would on Christmas day, and we are confident that patient safety is not at risk. As a group we apologise for any inconvenience that the strike has caused.
"This strike was forced upon us by a government which has conducted its contract negotiations in a disgraceful manner. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has often conducted his negotiations through social media and press release before consulting with doctors. It shows a complete disrespect for our profession. Furthermore Jeremy Hunt has consistently twisted statistics of weekend death rates to scaremonger in an irresponsible way which risks patients safety and lies to the public."
Ali Wood, an NHS supporter from Hebden Bridge, said, "I went in support of the Junior Doctors strike today because of all the many times I have taken family or friends into hospital, and have received the utmost caring concentration and attention. I don't believe these people have chosen their careers in order to get rich quick, and if they are telling us that the NHS organisation is heading for trouble, then we should sit up and listen. The Junior Doctors say this new contract will make their role difficult, therefore it will be difficult to keep or recruit staff, therefore the NHS will be run down longterm."
Recruitment and retention of doctors at Calderdale Royal Hospital has been a problem for years and is now becoming critical. It will only get worse if Hunt imposes his unsafe, unfair contract on junior doctors.
In a specialism that one of the junior doctors is currently training in, the Trust has had to bring back a retired consultant to make up a staff shortage. There is also a reliance on locums, who are good doctors, but don't know how the Calderdale Royal Hospital systems and processes work and can't provide training continuity.
Another junior doctor said, "I've got a child in school here and that's the only reason I haven't gone to Australia or Canada."
Staff recruitment and retention problems are used as justification for plans to close our A&E
The inability of the hospitals Trust to recruit and retain enough staff lies at the heart of the decision to close at least one of the two A&E Departments that serve Huddersfield and Halifax. They are about to finally put the hospital cuts plan forward in a pre-consultation Business Case document at a joint meeting of Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups on 20th January, when they will decide if the plans are ready for public consultation.
The hospital cuts, closures and downgrades and the unsafe unfair contracts that Hunt is trying to impose on the junior doctors are both key to NHS England's Five Year Forward View. The brainchild of Simon Stevens, who previously worked for global American health insurance company United Health, it includes plans for a "modern workforce" - ie deskilled, de-professionalised, downgraded, flexible and cheap.
The Junior Doctors' strike resists these plans.
Calderdale Royal Hospital in "black alert" last week
Under huge financial and operational pressure as a result of 5 years of so-called "efficiency savings" imposed by the Coalition government (and first proposed by the New Labour government on the basis of McKinsey recommendations), Calderdale Royal Hospital has been on black alert for around a week, according to staff who work there.
Black alert is when the hospital can't take any more patients because it hasn't got beds for them.
Last week Calderdale Royal Hospital opened two and a half wards to cope with the extra demand and also had 2 lists cancelled - basically 2 theatres - so that Doctors were available to work in other Theatres.
One of the junior doctors said, "When there's a black alert, there's suddenly money, for things like more MRI scans and social workers to arrange patient discharges and find places for them to go. When there's not a black alert, things revert to the processes that caused the black alert - like delays to patient discharges because there's not enough money for social workers. It makes no sense."
The goverment's wrong if it thinks it can get away with dismantling the NHS
Ciaran O'Neill added, "Ultimately we feel it is our responsibility as a profession to strongly appose a contract which we feel will give an unfair deal to doctors and the patients we serve. The Government's approach to the contract negotiations shows their disregard for the values of the NHS we are striving to uphold. The overwhelming support from the general public for the picket lines witnessed today shows the government it was wrong if it thought it could act with impunity in dismantling the NHS. It tells them to remember that the general public owns the NHS - it exists for people not profit."
And Ali Wood added, "The NHS is the heart our society, this huge organisation whose reason for existence is to benefit us, the public, I just can't imagine how life would feel without the NHS. It is one of the things that makes me feel safe without even realising it. We can't take it for granted; it's time to get involved and help defend it."
Oh - and PFI
A passer walked past the picket singing "PFI PFI PFI", to the tune of "Here we go, here we go, here we go" - a reference to the CRH Private Finance Initiative debt, that takes around 10% of the total NHS budget for Calderdale each year and has hobbled the hospital since it was opened.