NHS being kept alive by ‘love of its staff’, Manchester junior doctor warns as strike looms

The NHS is surviving only because of the ‘love of its staff’, a Manchester junior doctor has warned.

Louise Fenton, who works at Trafford General Hospital, took to social media to defend her right to vote and urge people to support any industrial action by NHS staff.

Her warning comes as colleagues across Manchester today faced a race against time to register for a crucial ballot on strike action.

Junior doctors, who staff hospitals and are between medical school and a consultancy post, needed to update their details with the British Medical Association (BMA) by 5pm in order to take part in next month’s ballot on proposed strike action.

The strike comes as opposition grows to Jeremy Hunt’s new junior doctor contract proposals, which include a working hours extension to 10pm from the current 7pm cut-off and would also encompass Saturdays.

This would mean a 30% pay-cut for many, with over 50,000 staff believed to be affected by the mooted changes.

One Manchester doctor says that the further cuts could spell the end for an already fragile NHS, and that there is overwhelming support of strike action going ahead.

“The NHS is surviving at the moment through the love of its staff,” said Dr Fenton in a Facebook post.

“Doctors are in early and stay late every day. If we become exhausted and demoralised we will not be able to continue the level of care we are proud of and it will no longer be safe.”

She also asked for support from the people of Manchester, many of whom may be impacted by any future strike action.

“Direct the discontent to the people who have pushed a caring, hard working, dedicated profession to the brink of collapse.”

Doctors in Scotland and Wales, where the contract proposals were rejected by the government, will not ballot due to the changes not affecting them, but have joined the cause with support for English and Northern Irish staff.

A protest in Manchester at the end of last month drew huge crowds opposing Hunt’s plans, with many incensed by the Health Secretary’s perceived scaremongering regarding the need for a seven day NHS. Many staff already work up to 12 consecutive days on their current contracts.

Strikes would put all non-emergency work on hold, with consultants filling in emergency posts meaning that no junior doctor would be leaving a vital role unoccupied.

A number of doctors have threatened to quit the NHS or leave the country to work abroad, with some having already left as a result of unsociable hours and overworking in recent years.

In an open letter to the chair of the Junior Doctors’ Committee at the BMA, Hunt explained that his new proposals come with the intention of reducing weekend deaths at UK hospitals.

“We want to work with you, in good faith, to develop a new contract which is better for both patients and junior doctors,” Hunt wrote to Dr Johann Malawana.

He did concede, however, that these plans would results in “some increase in plain time working” for junior doctors”

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