England faced a one-day strike on Tuesday by the nation's "junior doctors" – medical trainees akin to hospital residents in the U.S. – over a new contract affecting their hours and working conditions.
The National Health Service said 4,000 routine treatments have been postponed because of the strike, reported BBC News
Prime Minister Dave Cameron issued a last-minute plea asking the doctors to call off the strike because it would create "real difficulties for patients and potentially worse." The strike is the first two that are planned in the coming weeks.
The NHS told The Guardian
that 39 percent of roughly 26,000 junior doctors reported to work on Tuesday, but the figure included urgent and emergency care physicians who were not intended to be part of the strike.
Some doctors held an unofficial picket in the rain in London on Westminster Bridge outside St Thomas' hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
"I think the (Department of Health) has been ignoring the real safety concerns of reducing the terms and conditions of our contract," said James Crane, a diabetes registrar. "Retention is a huge problem. We already struggle to maintain a work/life balance.
"The contract they're trying to impose – the removal of severe financial penalties and safeguards and extending regular hours to Saturday – will only make that worse," said Crane.
Ann Rainsberry, national incident director for the NHS, said the strike has been a difficult one for patients, but was not as bad as expected.
"As expected, unfortunately, this action has caused disruption to patient care and we apologize to all patients affected," said Rainsberry. "It's a tough day, but the NHS is pulling out all the stops, with senior doctors and nurses often stepping in to provide cover. We are actively monitoring the situation across the country and the impact of the action is broadly in line with what we were expecting."
said Sandwell Hospital in West Bromwich ordered striking doctors back to work because of a "level four incident," but the British Medical Association said the order amounted to bullying.
England Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt charged that the 24-hour trainee doctors' strike throughout NHS hospitals was a "completely unnecessary dispute," Hunt said he wanted the BMA to re-engage negotiations with the government over their contract.
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