Junior doctors told to use 5-day NHS strike to go on a picnic

Junior doctors are told to use upcoming 5-day NHS strike as an opportunity to go for a picnic, have a BBQ or organise football match

  • EXCL: Union urges medics to take a break from ‘tough work’ on the picket lines
  • READ MORE: BMA accused of hypocrisy for slashing pay of its own staff

Junior doctors have been told to use the longest strike in the history of the NHS as an opportunity to go for a picnic, have a BBQ or organise a 5-a-side football match.

Union leaders have told members they do not need to spend all five days on picket lines when they walk out from 7am tomorrow as ‘picketing can be tough work’.

Instead they are advised to rally from 8am to 10am on the first day only – and then ‘switch off’ by spending time with friends and family.

The industrial action will see up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant refuse to deliver any care, including in A&E and cancer wards, and comes as NHS waiting lists stand at a record high of 7.4million.

But the British Medical Association says taking some ‘down time’ during the strike is a ‘valuable use of time’ and doctors should not feel it is ‘indulgent or wrong’.

Junior medics will walk off their NHS jobs for five days from tomorrow in their latest strike over pay. Pictured here is a medic at a rally during the last 72-hour stoppage held last month 

Health bosses were forced to cancel 108,602 appointments and operations when junior doctors withdrew care for three days in June, including from cancer wards and A&E. It took the total number of postponements as a result of strike action by the likes of junior doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists to 651,232 since December

It offers members some ‘inspiration’ for things to do, including ‘get some fresh air and take a strike hike with colleagues’ and organise a 5-a-side match – ‘football, rounders, netball, whatever floats your boat’.

Other ideas include ‘head down to the local park’, ‘dig out a book to get into on the sofa or out in the garden if you have one’ and ‘go for a picnic or have a BBQ with your mates’.

More than 650,000 appointments and operations have been cancelled as a result of NHS industrial action since December, including strikes by junior doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics.

The junior doctors are demanding an inflation-busting 35 per cent pay rise as part of a one-year deal or 49 per cent over two years.

Talks with ministers have collapsed amid claims the union has refused to budge from its opening position.

READ MORE: BMA accused of hypocrisy for slashing pay of staff while demanding 35% raise for members 

Doctors are campaigning to restore their pay to 2008 levels, saying it is unfair to expect them do the same job for less

Consultants, who also locked in their own pay row with the Government, are set to strike on July 20 and 21, although they will provide ‘Christmas Day cover’, meaning they will deliver urgent and emergency care only.

The combined action is expected to see the total number of cancellations soar past 1million.

Consultants have admitted they are using patients and long waiting lists as ‘leverage’ in order to secure a 35 per cent pay rise and reform of the pay review body, which advises ministers on their remuneration.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, has warned the double-whammy of strikes pose a ‘real challenge’ to the service and ‘cannot drag on’.

Dr Rob Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctor committee, said the strikes have taken a toll ‘physically, mentally and financially’.

In a message to members on the BMA website, they said: ‘Picketing can be tough work so we want to make sure you have some time for rest and recovery.

‘This time round, we’re not asking you to picket on all five days, instead we’re asking that you come down to support the picket lines on the Thursday only, between 8am and 10am.

‘This way, we can come together to show our solidarity with one another, but also give doctors a chance to recharge and get ready for returning to work.

‘Please use your down time over the weekend in particular to switch off, whether that’s through seeing friends and family, getting out and about or staying at home.

‘None of us want to be on strike but there are lots of ways to use the time to support your mental and physical wellbeing.’

They say the ‘only thing’ doctors should bear in mind is that there is the ‘possibility of derogations’, which could see them asked to return to work in the event of a major incident, so they are advised to ‘stay local’.

And the pair add: ‘Don’t let anyone make you feel that taking some down time during this period of strike action is indulgent or wrong.

‘The most important thing you can do is to withdraw your labour.

‘We are grappling with ever growing workloads, mounting pressures and cuts to our pay.

The union behind the strike has suggested medics use the time  to go for a picnic, have a BBQ or organise a 5-a-side football match (stock image)

‘Not being exhausted and stressed out is key to doing the best you can.

‘What’s more, we are going to need to draw on every last ounce of our resilience over the next few months to see this campaign through.

‘We know you have the stamina for the road ahead, but taking time out when you get the chance is essential.’

The leaders say members are free to picket on all five days if they wish to do so but stress there is ‘no pressure to do so’, adding: ‘Spending time socially with your colleagues on these days is also a valuable use of your time.

‘Stick together, strike together, win together.’

The BMA has been accused of hypocrisy for slashing the pay of its own staff while demanding a 35 per cent rise for its members.

The medical union wants taxpayers to fund higher salaries for doctors, who have brought the NHS to its knees with a series of devastating strikes.

But it has simultaneously cut the pay of it its own workers by around a fifth in real-terms since 2011 and has said it needs to consider its ‘financial constraints’ before agreeing to a rise.

The BMA workforce is represented by the GMB union, which is seeking ‘pay restoration’ to 2011 levels, when its current pay system was put in place.

It says those on lower salaries have seen their income eroded by 18.4 per cent and those on higher salaries by 15 per cent.

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