HomeLatest NewsRecord-breaking strike piles pressure on England’s health service

Record-breaking strike piles pressure on England’s health service

Services affected as thousands of doctors go on strike in UK

LONDON: Junior doctors in England started a six-day walkout over pay, the longest strike in the 75-year history of the state-run National Health Service (NHS), which will hit patient care during a seasonal winter peak in demand.

As in other key sectors over the past year, junior doctors represented by the British Medical Association (BMA) have staged a series of walkouts to demand better pay in the face of soaring inflation.

Junior doctors in England on Wednesday defended a decision to start their longest consecutive strike in the seven-decade history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). They said their wages have gone down by around a quarter in real terms under the current government, which has been in power since 2010.

“I’m here because we deserve better as doctors,” Callum Parr, an accident and emergency doctor from London, said from a picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital in the British capital. The 25-year-old medic said he was $150,000 in debt after six years at university, and facing increasing costs including rapidly rising rental prices in the city.

“Our job is hard, we knew it would be hard, we went to medical school which is also hard, and we want to help patients,” he said. “But you also have to be able to pay your bills.”

Doctors defend six-day strike as 7.7m patients on waiting list seek treatment

In a statement, the union urged the government to make a “credible” pay offer to end the strikes, which threaten to increase the pressure on the health service, where more than 7.7 million on waiting lists seek treatment.

“Morale across the health service is at an all-time low … Many will be wondering if their chosen career is still worth pursuing the government has the chance to show those doctors they still have a future working in this country,” the BMA said.

Cumulatively, the NHS, which has provided healthcare free at the point of use since it was founded in 1948, cancelled 1.2 million appointments since strikes began in 2023.

The government, which has agreed new pay deals with other healthcare workers, including nurses and senior doctors in recent months, has resisted hikes it says would worsen inflation.

The BMA abandoned talks with the government after being offered a pay rise of eight per cent to 10pc, and held strikes from Dec 20 to 23. The union is seeking a 35pc improvement, which it says is needed to cover the impact of inflation over several years.

Junior doctors are qualified physicians, often with several years of experience, who work under the guidance of senior doctors and make up a large share of the medical community.

“This January could be one of the most difficult starts to the year the NHS has ever faced,” Stephen Powis, its national medical director, said on Tuesday. AFP

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