Leader GP: 'Strike has given us sleepless nights'


Andrew Boyd

A DOCTOR is preparing to strike today for the first time in 30 years of practice.

Leader columnist Dr Peter Saul, who is based at The Health Centre, Rhos, and the Countess of Chester Hospital, will join colleagues in taking industrial action.

Many NHS workers believe the Government has gone back on a pensions agreement.

Dr Saul will still be working at the Countess of Chester to deal with any urgent cases but will not be doing routine work.

He said: “I have never gone on strike in about 30 years as a doctor. I feel very strongly about this and the issue has caused a lot of sleepless nights for people.

“We don’t think it’s fair what has been happening and have felt it necessary to take this action.

“The Government have torn up a four-year-old pensions agreement, imposing higher contributions than any other public sector workers and lower benefits.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is working closely with British Medical Association (BMA) representatives to ensure continuity of care and the safety of patients today and will continue to provide all emergency and urgent care services as normal during the period of action.

However, there will be some disruption to non-urgent services.

Some planned admissions and outpatient appointments are being postponed.

Patients affected by this are being told by letter or telephone and are asked to contact the health board on the usual telephone numbers for appointment bookings to rearrange their appointment.

Those who have ambulance transport arranged and whose appointment is cancelled are asked to contact the ambulance transport on 01633 626113.

Patients who do not receive notification their appointment has to be changed should arrive as normal for their clinic or admission.

Booking centres and reception staff are not affected by the industrial action and will take appointment phone calls about hospital and clinic appointments as normal today.

If patients are unsure about an appointment they can call the telephone number on their appointment letter for help.

A spokesman for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “All hospital emergency departments and minor injury units will continue as normal.

“However, these departments might be busier than usual if people are finding it difficult to see a GP on that day.

“We therefore encourage the public to follow the ‘choose well’ message and consider whether they could get the advice and treatment they need more easily by contacting NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or calling on their local community pharmacy.”

Doctors' strike action

UP to 100,000 doctors who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA) could strike today in protest at the Government's pension reforms.

According to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the action could see up to 30,000 operations cancelled, 58,000 diagnostic tests postponed and 200,000 outpatient appointments rescheduled.

However, almost three-quarters of GP practices will reportedly open as normal. A poll by Pulse magazine said only a quarter of practices across the UK have notified their primary care organisation that they will be taking part in the strike.

The BMA announced the strike last month after it accused ministers of pressing ahead with "totally unjustified" increases to pension contributions and a later retirement age for doctors, even though a deal on pensions was agreed four years ago.

Most doctors taking part will be striking for the first time – the last dispute was almost 40 years ago.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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