Junior doctors form picket line at Whipps Cross

Striking junior doctors demonstrated outside Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone on Tuesday over pay and “extreme stress” at work.

At 7am on Monday, junior doctors began a 72-hour walkout of hospitals across the country, affecting both emergency and planned care.

On Tuesday, about twenty people formed a picket line on the main road outside the hospital entrance for the second day in a row.

Cars, buses and ambulances repeatedly answered picket lines’ “Honk 4 doctors” signs with beeps of support as they passed.

Respiratory registrar Aarash Saleh, 37, said he is worried about doctors leaving the NHS and about the quality of care patients receive.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’m constantly apologising to patients about how long they are waiting,

“We want to give great care and not have to cover gaps and work under extreme stress with fear of making mistakes and dealing with people who have to wait too long to see us.

“You can stand that for a short time, but when your pay is being eroded and the job is getting harder you will seek employment elsewhere, and that exacerbates the problem”

He added: “Pay is the biggest priority but it all comes down to staffing.”

Doctors’ trade union the British Medical Association, which organised the strike, is asking for a 35 per cent pay rise.

However, health Secretary Steve Barclay has said he wants to find a settlement that recognises the country’s wider economic pressures.

Emergency medicine doctor Jahangir Alom said the strike is about “pay, retainment, skills and expertise”.

He added: “Two thirds of my [medical school] friends have gone abroad or are not working in the NHS as doctors.

“As an emergency worker, it’s normal for people to have to wait eight hours to see a doctor – that’s not how it used to be ten or fifteen years ago… it’s the government that is not doing any workforce planning.”

Anaesthetist registrar Nilesh Sonawane, who has a young family, said it is no longer “worth” working day and night shifts for £14 per hour.

He added: “They’re asking us for goodwill without anything else – I finished my medical degree fourteen years ago.”

Barts Health, which runs Whipps Cross and three other East London hospitals, says junior doctors make up half its medical workforce as they include doctors with up to 10 years of experience.

According to recent statements on the trust’s website, Barts has adjusted its services to make sure patient safety is not put at risk.

The hospital will continue to run with consultants covering duties normally carried out by their more junior colleagues until the strike ends.

Local Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) campaigner Nancy Taaffe, who also attended to support the junior doctors, called for a general strike to push “private interests out of healthcare”.

Other strikes to affect this borough this week include the Tube strikes on Wednesday March 15 and teachers on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter