Junior doctors stage their third strike over contracts

ON STRIKE: Junior doctors on picket duty outside the Royal Preston Hospital recently

ON STRIKE: Junior doctors on picket duty outside the Royal Preston Hospital recently

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Hundreds of operations and outpatient appointments are due to be cancelled across Lancashire over the next 48 hours as junior doctors strike for the third time in eight weeks.

Medics were set to walk out at 8am today and stay out until 8am on Friday in protest at the Government’s imposition of controversial new contracts governing weekend working.

While emergency care remains unaffected, hospitals were expected to trigger contingency plans to cover in-patient services and keep most departments running as normal.

The strike follows two 24-hour walkouts on January 12 annd February 10 which both resulted in widespread disruption for non-urgent surgery and day clinics. They failed to bring agreement between the BMA and the Government and resulted in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hardening his stance over the new contracts by imposing them on doctors.

In a lettter to NHS Trust chiefs this week, Dr Johann Malawana, chairman of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said: “We oppose the imposition of this contract and have asked the Government to return to meaningful negotiations with us, without the threat of imposition or unrealistic timescales.

“The impact of the imposition is that junior doctors are scared, confused and don’t know what the future holds for them.”

Today’s walkout is the first of three two-day strikes following the Government’s decision to implement the new contracts regardless of the doctors’ opposition.

Another is planned for April 6-8 and a third for April 26-28. Patients scheduled for surgical procedures are advised to check with their hospital.