Doctors have exams postponed as third day of rail strikes bites

·4 min read
Platforms at Waterloo station, in London, were deserted as Saturday’s strike action began - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Platforms at Waterloo station, in London, were deserted as Saturday’s strike action began - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Dozens of doctors had their exams cancelled at the last minute as rail workers brought trains to a halt for a third day on Saturday.

Students were told by email at 5pm on Friday that post-graduate Practical Assessment of Clinical Examination Skills exams, organised by the Royal Colleges of Physicians in Edinburgh, were postponed as a result of “short notice examiner unavailability due to a combination of Covid cases and travel disruption”.

Students had already made arrangements for travel and accommodation for the exams, due to take place at Southampton General Hospital.

Some, like Emma Routledge, had already begun their journeys when they received the “devastating” news. Ms Routledge, from London, said: “I’ve spent the day travelling to Southampton for my exam only to receive an email at 5pm to say it’s cancelled.I just want a chance to sit the exam I’ve prepared for.”

Lauren Glanville, another doctor affected by the last-minute cancellations, wrote on Twitter that she was “absolutely devastated, especially given how much preparation and pressure there is leading up to exam day”.

Keith McKellar, the CEO of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “My team worked very hard right up until the last minute to avoid this outcome. However, the increasing impact of Covid on examiners was exacerbated by the disruption caused by the rail strike and left us with no option but to cancel for some candidates.

“No candidate will be left out of pocket, and we will do our best as a college to assist those candidates to access the next available exam date.”

Meanwhile, fans faced a struggle to get to major music and entertainment gigs, with thousands unable to travel on one of the biggest event weekends of the year.

Fans of acts including the Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were forced to get refunds or pass on tickets after being unable to reach events by train.

Anne McCarthy, from Burnley, said she had been unable to travel to see the Stones in Hyde Park, adding: “The rail strike means we can’t get to London. Totally gutted.”

Fans of Sheeran had similar problems. One, called Katie, wrote on social media: “Absolutely fuming. Paid money to see Ed Sheeran at Wembley and can’t even go due to rail strikes. Something completely out of our control.

“We have insurance on our tickets but can’t get a refund unless Ed cancels the show.”

Another fan, called Matt, said: “I think the rail strike is absolutely disgusting. I was looking to go to London to watch Ed Sheeran at Wembley, and now I’ve got to pay for a taxi that cost over £200 when I was looking to take the train.”

Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, on a picket line outside outside Euston station in London on Saturday - Sarah Collier/PA Wire
Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, on a picket line outside outside Euston station in London on Saturday - Sarah Collier/PA Wire

Nine-year-old Ruby Bumby was left in tears after being unable to travel with her family from their home in Manchester to see her favourite band, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, at the London Stadium.

Her father Kevin, 45, and his partner Paula Pestell, 43, had tickets worth over £200 to see the band for Ruby’s “first proper big gig” but had to cancel because of the train strike.

Mr Bumby, who managed to sell one ticket on but struggled to get his money back for the other two, said: “We tried every avenue – coaches and planes – but they all would have got us in after the fact.

“Me and my partner used to go to concerts regularly before my daughter was born. Ruby’s loved their music since she was a baby. She’s down – she was looking forward to it. This was going to be her introduction to the scene.”

However, Mr Bumby said he remained sympathetic to the RMT’s decision to strike, adding: “Under the current government, I don’t blame them – I totally have no quarrel with them. I feel more for Ruby – that opportunity is gone now for that memory.”

Cricket supporters had to battle their way to England's third test against New Zealand at Headingley, Leeds, and seaside resorts including Bournemouth, Blackpool, Margate, Llandudno and Skegness were left without trains.

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