Outside St Thomas Hospital in Westminster, several junior doctors, furious at Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposed changes to pay and conditions, chanted “not safe, not fair.”
“Junior doctors’ contract, it’s everyone fight,” one placard read.
The controversial walk-out went ahead despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s last minute plea to call off the strike.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Angela Rayner and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell joined picket lines in support of the doctors.
‘I cancelled 8 to 10 operations’
Among the strikers was junior doctor Naomi Wright, 32, who told RT the contract proposals would leave her unable to support her two-year-old daughter.
“We’re getting a massive pay cut. I would have to move further out of London, or out of London altogether if this contract were to go through.
“I have a two-year-old daughter and a family to support and I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the house that I live in now. I don’t live extravagantly, I have a two-bedroom house. I can’t afford a car,” she said.
Wright told RT she cancelled 8 to 10 operations in order to strike.
Asked if she feels guilty, she said: “I have a very heavy heart that we had to cancel procedures.”
The pediatric surgery registrar predicts there will be a shortage of junior doctors across England if the contract is introduced.
“We love the NHS and want to support the NHS, but when it comes to the point where we can’t support our own families and have a reasonable quality of life, doctors will be forced to go abroad,” she said.
Wright said she’s certain the contract will lead to the “demise of the NHS.”
“Do you really want me operating on your children with no sleep?” she asked.
‘Strained medical workforce’
Another junior doctor, Thomas Sanctuary, 36, told RT: “This is about a fight for future generations working within the NHS, a fight for the NHS as a national health service free at the point of demand.”
“We’re all here to protect the NHS as a service, we’re very concerned about the NHS being put at risk. If striking is the only remaining option that we have, then that’s what we have to do.”
The strikers argue Hunt’s proposals would force junior doctors to work longer hours and take a 30 percent pay cut.
“The salary proposals are very difficult to interpret. I think they’re designed to make it easier for employers to get their staff working anti-social hours without having to pay them more,” the trainee medic told RT.
Sanctuary said if the government want a quality service, they are going to have to “pay for that service.”
Junior doctor Paul Robinson, 37, said he is “frankly dismayed and upset” at the government for introducing the contract, which he calls unfair.
“It is dangerous because exhausted doctors will be treating patients,” he told RT.
“We do get tired, we’re only human, but we work hard and we always try to do the best we can for our patients.”
Robinson apologized to patients who had their operations cancelled.
“The junior doctors who are still in doing emergency cover will be doing their very best for those patients,” he said.
On Tuesday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt praised junior doctors who turned up for work, insisting almost 40 percent of them crossed picket lines.
It has also emerged that junior doctors from Sandwell Hospital in West Bromwich were ordered back to work to attend to a serious incident.
Dr Roger Stedman, medical director at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said in a statement: “Over the last two days we have had a very high numbers of patients come to hospital, and fewer than usual discharged.
“Because of that we decided to require trainee doctors allocated to ward work to attend Sandwell during today’s strike.”