Junior doctors at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) are back on the picket line today for their fourth strike in a continuing contract dispute with the government.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) began the latest 48 hour stoppage, in which only emergency care will be provided, at 8am this morning.
And hospital managers have said that around 100 procedures and appointments have been cancelled because of the walkout. Most have already been rescheduled.
Dr Harriet Nash, a QEH registrar and BMA representative, said they were “fed up” at the lack of progress in the dispute and accused the government of not listening to their concerns.
The union has already signalled its intention to stage two all-out nine-hour strikes, in which junior doctors will not work at all, on April 26 and 27.
And Dr Nash admitted that would cause major disruption on the days either side of the action as well as the strike days themselves.
But she insisted the BMA had no choice but to escalate the dispute because of a lack of engagement by ministers.
She said: “We don’t want to do it, but we hope it will get the government back to the table. That’s all we want.”
No direct negotiations are currently taking place and the BMA has lodged a legal challenge against the decision to enforce a new contract on junior doctors, which was announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in February.
An NHS staff campaign group, Just Health, this week mounted a separate legal challenge to the decision.
However, the Department for Health has accused the BMA of going back on its commitment to negotiate a settlement on Saturday pay, one of the key sticking points in the dispute.
It claims that, across England, almost 25,000 operations have been cancelled since the first strikes were called last December.
A spokesman said: “This strike is irresponsible and disproportionate and it is patients who are suffering.
“We ask doctors to look at the detail of the contract and call on the BMA to cancel their plans to escalate strike action even further.”