A cancer patient who had his check-up delayed despite discovering “alarming” lumps has stood in solidarity with striking junior doctors on a picket line, saying NHS staff pay “transcends a lot of our individual troubles”.
Junior doctors across England began a four-day strike on Tuesday in a worsening dispute over pay which threatens huge disruption to the NHS.
An estimated 350,000 appointments, including operations, will be cancelled as a result of the walkout by members of the British Medical Association (BMA).
Patients including a man with cancer who had an appointment delayed and a former NHS dental nurse who had a procedure cancelled have spoken to the PA news agency about the strikes.
Phil Sutcliffe, a 75-year-old retired journalist from Streatham, south London, joined striking junior doctors on a picket line at St Thomas’ Hospital with his wife, who was a nurse for 40 years.
He held up a sign that read: “Today my cancer check-up was delayed by the strike but I support the junior doctors! We must pay them properly and the nurses and everyone who cares for us.”
He said he started to feel some lumps returning, which he described as “alarming”, and due to the strikes his check-up appointment has been delayed to early May.
He said: “I have a slow-developing form of cancer which has been in remission and is now starting up again, so it’s starting to get a bit alarming. But I’m in good hands – despite this little delay.”
He added he “entirely understands” that people with much more urgent conditions “feel angry and frightened” with appointment delays.
“But at the same time, these doctors do the most fantastic job for very modest pay, in particular the junior doctors, so the Government needs to get to the negotiating table and start talking,” Mr Sutcliffe said.
“The issue of pay for the doctors, for the nurses, for all the health workers, is just so crucial it transcends a lot of our individual troubles, so I am supporting these guys.”
For Rebecca Lawson, a former NHS dental nurse who has private healthcare with Bupa, the strikes have meant an operation she was due to have this week to investigate severe stomach issues was cancelled due to doctors having to cover for the BMA strike at NHS hospitals.
The 43-year-old, who lives in Horsham, West Sussex, told PA: “I don’t blame the doctors because their wages are extremely low. I just don’t think it needed to come to the point of strikes because the Government should not have let it get this far.
“Going private and needing a procedure and being constantly told it needs to be postponed or it needs to be cancelled because all the doctors have to come out of the private hospital and cover for doctors striking – it’s just a mess.
“It’s frustrating because you think, we’re paying for this to get away from the disruption of the NHS and we’re still being impacted.”
A new date has not been given for her procedure.
Mrs Lawson lived in Singapore for nine years and she said that when you needed a private operation there, you would be seen in three days maximum.
“Private healthcare in the UK is not as efficient as private healthcare in other countries”, she added.
“It really highlights how bad things are here.”
Mrs Lawson added that one of the main reasons behind her decision to go private was because she suffers from a permanent migraine from a head injury she had five years ago, which has left her unable to work, and found it difficult to get an appointment on the NHS.
“I’m paying £1,500 every three months for medication I need and there’s another medication I need that I couldn’t get a NHS neurologist appointment for.
“These are all drugs I should be able to get on the NHS, but couldn’t get appointments for, so it is having a huge impact.”