Junior doctors and campaigners from Brighton plan to head to a demo in London tomorrow (Saturday 9 January) days before they go on strike.
As well as the dispute over junior doctors’ pay and conditions, medics and their supporters will protest a proposal by the Chancellor to scrap student bursaries for nurses.
George Osborne announced the plan in his autumn statement. Nurses would be expected to take a student loan instead, even though there is a shortage of home-grown nurses.
The first of three strikes by junior doctors is due to start on Tuesday (12 January).
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said: “There is due to be national junior doctors industrial action from 8am on Tuesday 12 January until 8am on Wednesday 13 January.
“Some elective surgery and outpatient appointments will be cancelled and rescheduled but if you don’t hear from us please assume your appointment will go ahead as planned.
“We would encourage the public to help keep our Emergency Department free for emergencies and use other services such as NHS 111, the Urgent Treatment Centre at Crawley Hospital and the Brighton Station Health Centre if possible.”
Sussex Defend the NHS said: “Last month saw a massive demonstration by junior doctors, health workers and the public expressing anger at the government’s attempt to impose an unsafe and unfair new contract on our doctors.
“Strike plans were put on hold when finally the government agreed to talks at ACAS.
“These have now ground to a halt as the BMA accused the government of ‘intransigence’ and of not committing to serious negotiation.”
British Medical Association (BMA) chairman Mark Porter said: “After weeks of further negotiations, it is clear that the government is still not taking junior doctors’ concerns seriously.
“Furthermore, the government has repeatedly dragged its feet throughout this process.
“We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause but junior doctors have been left with no option.
“It is because the government’s proposals would be bad for patient care as well as junior doctors in the long term that we are taking this stand.”
Local BMA rep Todd Leckie said that there would be a demonstration outside the Royal Sussex from 7am until noon followed by a rally in the centre of Brighton.
Sussex Defend the NHS said that the government plans to remove the student bursary for training meant trainee health professionals could end up in debt to the tune of £50,000.
Maya Bowles, a student nurse at Brighton University, said: “Osborne’s bursary cuts are another example of this government’s detachment from the needs of real working people.
“The cut will not open more places in universities but cut the lifeline that nurses, midwives and other health care professionals depend on to live while working long hospital hours and studying on top.
“Why are those that care for the most vulnerable people in our society being penalised?
“A cynic might think this is just another co-ordinated attack on our NHS. But hey, I’m only a nurse.”
Katrina Miller, from Sussex Defend the NHS, said: “I honestly never thought I would see the day when doctors went on strike.
“If anyone thinks this is easy then they’re wrong. And now student nurses as well? This is all wrong.
“This government is intent on making everything in the NHS really bad and then their health corporation friends will just step in and we’ll all end up having to pay for health care through private insurance.
“It would be great to see real support across the city for our doctors, student nurses and midwives.”