Striking junior doctors yesterday (Tue) admitted it was the “saddest day” of their careers as they refused to provide emergency care for the first time in the history of the NHS.
Around 50 medical staff gathered outside University Hospital Coventry, where British Medical Association (BMA) chairman Mark Porter works as a consultant anaesthetist.
Dr Porter was not present on the picket line but his striking colleagues waved placards which read: “Don’t spread us too thin” and “Not safe. Not fair”.
Cars honked their horns in support and members of the public stopped to hand out doughnuts and Ferrero Roche chocolates.
Intensive care doctor Munim Moiz, 26, said it was one of the “saddest days” of his career.
He said: “There is consultant-led care in the hospital today, the most experienced and senior doctors, the cream of the crop are covering.
“But I think the fact we were forced to take this action shows how serious we think this is.
“We think the contract is unsafe for patients and it’s in some way going towards dismantling the NHS. It is demoralising and it devalues doctors.
“If we feel our ability to care for patients is being impeded by external forces we will do what we have to save the NHS.
“This is one of the saddest days of my career, that I’ve had to take this action but we feel we have no other choice.
“I have no concept of what a weekend is. I work seven days a week, 12 shifts and I do nights.
“It’s a rewarding profession but sometimes people forget that doctors are human beings. We have stresses and we get unwell and we have families.
“This new contract will destroy doctors’ ability to lead any sort of normal life.
“If the consultants weren’t able to cope with an emergency, the BMA would be contacted and a message would be sent to the junior doctors on strike to come back and we certainly would.”
Dr Mark Mobley, 35, who works in A&E, said: “The level of fury is so much I felt I would have let the other doctors down by not being here on strike.
“I don’t know a single junior doctor who isn’t on strike today.
“There are huge gaps in the new NHS doctors’ rota. There aren’t enough staff to meet the needs of the NHS. I hope the Government will bend.
“We have enormous support from the public and I don’t think the Government can compete against that knowing they need to get re-elected.”
Trainee surgeon Samantha Chambers, 29, said: “We love what we do and we love the NHS but we want it to be safe for our patients.
“The new contract will push staff over the edge. It’s been designed by people who don’t work in the system.
“They don’t realise how dangerous these extra hours are. We are already exhausted.
“I’m married to a junior doctor and there have been times when I wouldn’t see him for a week at a time and we would leave notes for each other on the fridge.
“The NHS is running on goodwill at the moment. We are well paid but it’s not about the money.
“But it’s demoralising because we give so much and we keep being stretched even more. It’s an abuse and the goodwill is being lost.
“Privatisation is a concern for me because of the links between Government ministers and private healthcare.
“I worry they are trying to destroy morale in order to privatise the NHS. That would be a disaster because free healthcare is what makes this country great.”
Her husband Michael McFarlane, 33, a gastroenterologist at Warwick Hospital, said: “I used to work 13 hours a day then drive two hours back home when I worked at a different hospital. In one year I racked up 45,000 miles on my car.
“They are taking the amount of butter and jam for five pieces of bread and spread it over seven pieces and claim that no piece of bread will have less jam.
“It’s so short-sighted to take an already stretched workforce and stretch it thinner. We aren’t robots, we get decision fatigue.
“That can lead to mistakes and mistakes can have terrible consequences.
“I think the Government risks having blood on its hands.”
There were waiting times of one hour in A&E yesterday and the emergency room and ambulance parking bays were virtually empty.
Jas Singh, 42, from Willenhall, West Mids., was in hospital after injuring his arm following a fall from a ladder while clearing the guttering outside his home.
He said: “I was only waiting 15 minutes or so and they called me in. It’s just a bad sprain.
“I thought it would be quite busy here today but I was surprised by how quiet it was to
“There were quite a few doctors in there and they didn’t seem stressed at all.
“I’m with the doctors. They’re heroes at the end of the day and the Government should listen to what they’re saying.”
Chelsea Turner, 19, from Brandon, Coventry, took her two-year-old boy Bailey to A&E after he broke out in a rash.
She said: “I panicked this morning when he woke up and I saw he’d got a rash on his stomach so I brought him straight here.
“They saw me in about half an hour. I saw there were doctors on strike when we came in but there was no drama in A&E.
“I thought it might be meningitis but the doctor said it was probably an allergic reaction to something. She gave him piriton and sat him down for a bit and now he’s feeling better.
“I think if they (the Government) aren’t listening and they’re making the doctors work all these crazy hours then they should go on strike.
“I wouldn’t want a doctor who was stressed or tired looking after my kid.”