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‘Among the NHS’s darkest ever days’

54,000 doctors mount first ever all-out strike for fair contracts

JEREMY HUNT will be remembered for causing one of the darkest moments in the history of the NHS, junior doctors said yesterday as they began an unprecedented all-out strike.

Fifty-four thousand doctors scrubbed up to stage spirited pickets outside hospitals across England in their dispute with the Tory Health Secretary over his plans to impose a “dangerous” new contract.

Public support for their strikes has risen from 44 per cent at the start of the year to 57 per cent, according to a poll by Ipsos Mori.

But doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA) said the strike, which continues between 8am and 5pm today, was “incredibly sad” and “entirely avoidable.”

Junior doctors committee chairman Johann Malawana said: “These two days of industrial action mark one of the lowest points in the wonderful history of the NHS.

“We offered a simple choice — lift imposition [of the contract] and the strikes would be called off, but unfortunately the Health Secretary simply refuses to do that.”

Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander also branded it “one of the saddest days in the history of the NHS.”

She said: “Nobody wanted to see this strike go ahead, least of all junior doctors.

“But Jeremy Hunt’s handling of this dispute has been utterly shambolic.”

Bookies Betway slashed the odds on Mr Hunt’s resignation from 6/1 to 5/2 as the strike got underway.

And Mr Hunt admitted the damage that the dispute had caused, telling Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: “This is likely to be my last big job in politics.”

Hundreds of junior doctors and supporters in the trade union movement turned up the heat on Mr Hunt with a protest outside the Department of Health yesterday evening.

Public-sector union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka called for the TUC to organise a day of action in support of the doctors, which could include co-ordinated strike action between doctors and teachers.

“I’m surprised the strike has got this far,” said trainee surgeon Amelia Leigh, from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

“But I would be in favour of more strike action because unfortunately they’re just not listening to us and the only way really to make them listen is to make headlines.”

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