London Evening Standard/London
Celebrities came out in support of junior doctors yesterday as the start of a 48-hour walkout forced the cancellation of more than 800 operations in London.
Stars from the TV sitcom Green Wing, including Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, reunited at Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, where it was filmed, to join the picket line.
Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave attended a demonstration at the department of health at which north London junior doctors arrived on a fire engine — showing support from the Fire Brigades Union — to deliver a 100,000-signature petition to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mangan said: “Green Wing was in many ways absolutely ridiculous but it’s nowhere near as ridiculous as the mess Hunt and the department of health have made of these negotiations with the junior doctors. We’re here to support the doctors at the hospital where we filmed Green Wing and to urge the government to listen to the medical profession’s concerns.”
Greig said: “Doctors starting out today will be tending to us, our children and our children’s children. I am standing with them because I don’t want them doing it exhausted by overwork or enforced poverty.”
Janis Burns, a junior doctor at Northwick Park, said the Green Wing reunion provided a “much needed morale boost”. She said: “As a striking junior doctor I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of public support.”
Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, who handed in the petition to the department of health, said: “We are telling Hunt that this contract will put patients’ lives at risk by stretching an already understaffed workforce even thinner across seven days, in a chronically underfunded system.”
The strike action, which will continue until 8am tomorrow, is the fourth walkout organised by the British Medical Association in protest at the threatened imposition of “unsafe” new contracts. Medics claim the new contracts, which reduce overtime payments in return for a 13.5% increase in basic salary, fail to protect against the working of dangerously long shifts.
The department of health branded yesterday’s action “irresponsible and disproportionate” and said almost 25,000 operations had been cancelled since the first walkout in January. Further action is planned on April 26 and 27, with the first ever withdrawal of emergency care by junior doctors.
Hospital bosses remain broadly supportive of junior doctors but concerned at the impact on patients. Imperial College Healthcare linked the disruption to its failure to hit waiting time targets. There was unexpected backing for the strike from the Patients Association, which said contract imposition was not the way to resolve the dispute.
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