Junior doctors staging a strike outside Kettering General Hospital say support from the public has been overwhelming.
The medics are holding a two-day walkout - the latest step in an industrial dispute over contracts due to be imposed on them in the summer after talks with the British Medical Association were called off by the government.
Hundreds of motorists honked their horns and passers-by stopped to talk to the doctors who have a picket line in Rothwell Road, outside Kettering Hospital.
The strike began yesterday and is scheduled to end tomorrow (Friday) at 8am. During this time, junior doctors will attend only to emergencies.
Among the issues doctors are striking about include a new rule that finishing a shift at any point before 2am will mean it is not counted as a night-shift and so will not fall within the new safety limits on nights on a row.
The Government also wants to reduce the amount that junior doctors get paid for working on a Saturday.
One of those on the picket line in Kettering, Dr Panchali Sarmahm, said striking was a last resort. She said: “We don’t want to be standing here striking but we have been pushed to do this.
“We have had lots of people stopping and talking to us and we are grateful for their support.
“The issues that we’re striking on have become more crystalised now that the government has published the contracts.
“This is not just an issue of working hours, it’s also one of equality.
“The new contracts will have a major impact on women and the government seems to think those consequences are acceptable as part of its long-term aims.”
The Equality Impact Statement that has looked at the impact of the new contracts acknowledges that changes in the contract will disadvantage women, particularly those training part-time, carers and lone parents. However it states, “any indirect adverse effect which may occur is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
A Kettering General Hospital spokesman said that the stike had mean the postponment of 252 outpatient appointments and 35 elective operations.
The Nene Clinical Commissioning group is advising patients that have not been contacted to attend appointments as normal.
Dr Darin Seiger, Chair of NHS Nene CCG, said: “NHS services are already under considerable pressure, so we are urging everyone to think about how they can help and support their local NHS at this challenging time. There are simple things that people can do to help, such as thinking carefully about whether they can treat their minor illness at home, with help from their local pharmacist or by calling NHS 111 for advice. NHS 111 provides advice 24 hours, seven days a week for people who have a condition that cannot wait for their GP or if they are unsure what to do. It’s important that people who take regular medication ensure that they have enough to see them through.
“A&E should only be used for critical or life-threatening situations requiring medical attention, such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, overdoses, ingestion or poisoning. People with minor injuries and ailments should not attend at the A&E department and are warned they will be referred elsewhere or face longer waits than normal as more serious cases are prioritised.”