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Junior doctors stage second strike in English hospitals

Thousands of junior doctors throughout England have gone on a second round of strikes against proposed new working conditions and pay rates. The walkout failed to send any shockwaves to parliament.

Junior doctors across England pledged that they would only provide emergency medical care for the next 24 hours after negotiations between the Department of Health and the British Medical Association - which serves as a trade union for doctors - had reached a severe impasse.

The walkouts came as the result of ongoing disputes over pay and associated working conditions between the government and the British Medical Association. Ahead of the 24-hour strike on 10 February, more than a thousand doctors and activists had protested outside Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office in London last weekend. They were joined by celebrities including British actress Vanessa Redgrave and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

This is the second strike of its kind of the year; another one held in January was the first in 40 years. Coinciding with the weekly Questions to the Prime Minister (PMQs) in parliament, the issue of the junior doctors' strike failed to be raised by any Member of Parliament, including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

NHS reforms

One of the main disagreements between doctors and the government is over payment for weekend shifts and whether Saturday should be treated as a regular working day. Prime Minister Cameron's government justified the suggested reforms, saying they would help to create a "seven days a week" NHS where the quality of care was on the same level at weekends as it is on weekdays.

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Junior doctors stage strike in English hospitals

Junior doctors, however, argue that there already is a seven-day-a-week service available to anyone who presents themselves as ill at a hospital, adding that if an illness didn't require hospital staff's attention on weekends, it could wait to be addressed during regular business days.

Emma Gordon, a junior urologist of five years at the West Suffolk Hospital, told the AFP news agency that junior doctors under the NHS needed "greater funding, greater infrastructure, more nurses, more support staff. We need more, not less."

"Compared to other healthcare systems around the world, we consistently do more with less and fewer doctors than almost any other country in the world, and still provide the single best healthcare available."

Cancelled appointments

National Health Service (NHS) officials said that several thousand medical procedures had to be cancelled because of the strike, with many more likely to be affected. Anne Rainsberry, national incident director for NHS England, said that the NHS was doing "everything possible to minimize the impact of this regrettable strike."

Junior doctors in the UK are considered to be all physicians who are still in training before becoming consultants. They can have up to 10 years of experience. There are more than 50,000 junior doctors in England, making up a third of the medical workforce.

ss/jil (AP, AFP)

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