Striking junior doctors were raising awareness of their ongoing dispute with the Government last week by hosting an event to teach life-saving skills to parents of babies and young children.
Paid for by the junior doctors themselves, the sessions drew huge support from parents across the borough, who turned up not just for the free advice, but also to show solidarity with those taking action.
Hosted above Manna Café on Tunbridge Wells High Street, a dozen junior doctors from the local NHS trust, some of whom had only just finished their night shifts a few hours before, were on hand to help out.
The event, titled Little Life Savers, was organised by 31-year-old oncology registrar Dr Nicola Davis, who explained their reasons for putting on the free sessions.
She said: “We wanted to do something positive during our day of action and engage with the local community so that they could meet their junior doctors.”
Dr Davis refuted any suggestion that the techniques being taught were to prepare people for an upcoming A&E walkout in a fortnight’s time, claiming the session would have gone ahead regardless.
She added: “It is to raise awareness of our situation and there are many other trusts where junior doctors have done similar things in the past, before the decision was made for the next strike.
“But we are all hoping the next 48-hour strike won’t go ahead, we just want the issue to be resolved. We don’t want to be on strike, but we have no choice.”
Her position was backed by Dr Matt Ellington, an A&E doctor who had only finished his last night shift at 9am, just three hours before the session began.
He said: “We wanted to make sure the strike was not just a sit-at-home-and-sulk-day and by doing this we can still benefit the community.
“I do feel guilty about striking but there is no choice. I believe the risk from these strikes is the lesser of two evils compared to the risks to patient safety in the long new contract which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wishes to enforce will put lives at risk by forcing doctors to work longer hours and for less pay.
However, the Government argues there is a need to create a truly ‘sevenday’ NHS, claiming run from the new contract.”
The British Medical Association, which backs the action taken by junior doctors, has argued the 11,000 extra people die at the weekend, as opposed to a weekday, a figure junior doctors claim is misinterpreted.
However, there was little doubt who the mothers and fathers attending the seminars supported. Mother of two Ainsley Goddard said: “I completely see their [junior doctors] point of view and hope more people will come out in support of them. We need them.”
Her view was echoed by Katie Richards, who said: “I came partly because I wanted to take advantage of the free event which these good-natured doctors have put on.
“But I also definitely support their action and will be signing their petition. I am worried that the number of doctors is already decreasing and I want to support those we have left.”