Defiant doctors, patients and NHS campaigners marched in solidarity to St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday in protest against the government’s controversial new NHS contracts for junior doctors.
The protesters gathered at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel at 5pm before marching to St Paul’s, where they held a vigil by candlelight for the NHS and heard speeches condemning the government’s plans to force through changes to junior doctors’ pay and conditions.
Jackie Applebee, a campaigner and GP who attended the march, called the atmosphere “really positive” and estimated the turnout to be around 2,000.
She said: “We love our jobs, and no one likes going on strike but what other option do we have? Everyone relies on the NHS and if we don’t stand up and fight we could see things getting even worse over the next few years.”
Junior doctors across England provided emergency-only care for 48 hours from 8am on Wednesday 9 March, in the first of three rounds of industrial action scheduled for the next three months.
The ongoing dispute marks the first time junior doctors have initiated industrial action in 40 years.
It follows the decision by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to halt negotiations with the British Medical Association (BMA) and impose new contracts on junior doctors.
A poll by Ipsos Mori found that 66 per cent of the public backed the strikes.
The next 48-hour strike will begin on 6 April.