Cancer patient supports striking doctors on picket line as check-up delayed

Phil Sutcliffe, 75, stands in solidarity with NHS staff in central London

Cancer patient Phil Sutcliffe joined NHS junior doctors on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in London. PA
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A cancer patient who had his check-up delayed despite discovering “alarming” lumps has stood in solidarity with striking junior doctors on a picket line in central London.

Junior doctors across England began a four-day strike on Tuesday in a worsening dispute over pay which threatens huge disruption to the NHS.

An estimated 350,000 appointments, including operations, will be cancelled as a result of the walkout by members of the British Medical Association.

Phil Sutcliffe, 75, a retired journalist from Streatham, south London, joined a picket line at St Thomas’ Hospital.

He held up a sign that read: “Today my cancer check-up was delayed by the strike but I support the junior doctors. We must pay them properly and the nurses and everyone who cares for us.”

Mr Sutcliffe said he has a form of lymphoma that has returned after being in remission for nearly five years.

Phil Sutcliffe said that striking doctors need a pay rise and were right to stage a walkout. AP

He said he started to feel some lumps returning, which he described as “alarming”, and due to the strikes his check-up appointment has been delayed to early May.

“I have a slow-developing form of cancer which has been in remission and is now starting up again, so it’s starting to get a bit alarming. But I’m in good hands — despite this little delay,” he said.

He “entirely understands” that people with much more urgent conditions “feel angry and frightened” with appointment delays, he added.

“The issue of pay for the doctors, for the nurses, for all the health workers, is just so crucial it transcends a lot of our individual troubles, so I am supporting these guys,” he said.

For Rebecca Lawson, a former NHS dental nurse who has private healthcare with Bupa, the strikes have meant an operation she was due to have this week to investigate severe stomach issues was cancelled due to doctors having to cover for the BMA strike at NHS hospitals.

Mrs Lawson, 43, who lives in Horsham, West Sussex, said she didn't blame the doctors because their wages are extremely low.

“Going private and needing a procedure and being constantly told it needs to be postponed or it needs to be cancelled because all the doctors have to come out of the private hospital and cover for doctors striking — it’s just a mess,” she said.

“It’s frustrating because you think, we’re paying for this to get away from the disruption of the NHS and we’re still being impacted.”

A new date has not been given for her procedure.

Mrs Lawson lived in Singapore for nine years and she said that when you needed a private operation there, you would be seen within three days.

“Private healthcare in the UK is not as efficient as private healthcare in other countries,” she said.

“It really highlights how bad things are here.”

Updated: April 11, 2023, 4:42 PM

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