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Hospitals across Kent prepare for junior doctors’ strike

Senior doctors have been called in to help run hospitals across the county as thousands of junior doctors nationwide go out on strike today.

Hospital trusts have had to reschedule some non-urgent appointments in order to cope with doctor shortages.

The walk-out comes days after one hospital trust warned patients of delays for emergency treatment due to a high demand of pressure on the service.

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Junior doctors picketing outside Medway Hospital
Junior doctors picketing outside Medway Hospital

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said the cold weather and post-Christmas rush were causing delays at its two sites in Hermitage Lane, Maidstone and Tonbridge Road, Pembury on Friday.

Hospital bosses are keen to reassure members of the public that they will continue to provide a safe and effective service for patients throughout the industrial action.

VIDEO: Junior doctors strike outside the William Harvey Hospital

The East Kent Hospitals Trust, which looks after the William Harvey in Ashford, as well as the Kent and Canterbury Hospital and the QEQM hospital in Margate, said: "Business continuity plans are in place that cover industrial action.

"As well as increasing senior doctor presence on strike days, we have taken measures to increase capacity in our hospitals to ensure we can see and treat patients who require urgent or immediate care."

In a statement released online, the Medway NHS Foundation Trust added: "The safety of all our patients during these periods is our absolute priority.

"Senior clinical staff will cover the usual duties of our junior doctors so our outpatients can receive the care they require.

There was a delay in the ambulance arriving. Library picture
There was a delay in the ambulance arriving. Library picture
William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Stock picture
William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Stock picture

"We will have to cancel some outpatient clinics and non-emergency surgery. We will ensure that any patients who will be impacted will be notified."

The trust said patients who require emergency treatment will be seen and treated as quickly as possible.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust added a small number of planned procedures will have to be rearranged.

Junior doctor Alana Rochester is one of those striking outside Maidstone Hospital.

She told our reporter: "Ultimately, we don't want to strike, we don't wish to be here. We care about our patients but in the long run, the new contracts would not be safe for our patients."

Dr Roxanne Annho, also outside Maidstone Hospital, said: "I am here to participate in industrial action over the junior doctors contract because I am concerned the new junior doctors contract is unsafe and quite dangerous for clinicians and patients."

The picket line at Maidstone Hospital
The picket line at Maidstone Hospital
Junior doctors have gone on strike
Junior doctors have gone on strike

Another Maidstone doctor, oncology registrar Dr Nicola Davis, said: "We don't take this action lightly, it is with really heavy hearts, but is something we really have to do at this point because of the junior doctors' contract most likely being imposed upon us.

"We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to patients but it is important to say care will continue for emergencies. it's very much like a bank holiday.

"This is a contract that will have serious consequences, it will mean working more hours and affecting our pay."

Dr Nick Jolliffe, 29, at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Pembury, said: "I came here in support of my colleagues on strike today because of concerns about the government's plans to water down or remove the protection we have for the hours we work.

"Many of us are concerned this will lead to unregulated extra hours being worked by junior doctors that will lead to many of us being exhausted and this will lead to the detriment of safe care for our patients."

Today will be the first of three spells of strike action across England by junior doctors over concerns about pay and working hours.

The action is scheduled to last between 8am and 8pm, with further walk-outs on Tuesday, January 26 and Wednesday, February 10.

Have you been affected by today's strike? Share your story below.

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