In England, a large number of young doctors will participate in a five-day strike this month due to an ongoing disagreement over their pay with the British government.
The British Medical Association, which represents junior doctors, announced on Friday that the government did not meet the deadline for presenting a better pay offer. As a result, the doctors will be on strike from Feb. 24 to Feb. 28.
The resident physicians, who play a crucial role in hospital and clinical services while they undergo specialized training, have gone on strike nine times in the past year. Last month, they participated in a six-day strike, the longest in the history of the state-supported National Health Service.
“We are still open to continuing discussions and calling off the planned strikes if there is substantial advancement and a viable proposal is presented,” stated Dr. Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi, the co-chairs of the BMA’s junior doctors committee.
The labor union reports that recent medical graduates receive a rate of 15.53 pounds ($19.37) per hour – slightly above the U.K.’s minimum wage of 10 pounds per hour. However, salaries increase significantly after the initial year. The British Medical Association (BMA) has requested a 35% increase in pay as their initial demand, but they are open to negotiating.
The Conservative administration has declared that it will not engage in negotiations until the union ends the strike.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins stated that they had already given a pay raise of up to 10.3% and were willing to do more. She urged the junior doctors’ committee to call off their action and resume negotiations in order to find a solution that benefits both patients and the NHS.
Experienced physicians, referred to as consultants, and other healthcare professionals have been recruited to provide coverage for emergency services, critical care, and maternity services during the strikes. The consultants are also currently in disagreement with the government regarding their recent pay raise but have not yet scheduled any future strike dates.
The approaching strike will result in even more cancelled appointments and procedures, adding to the strain on the NHS to address a backlog that will likely be a major concern in the upcoming general election.
For the past year, there have been repeated strikes in the health sector in Britain as employees demanded higher wages to compensate for the expensive cost of living. According to unions, salaries have not kept up with inflation over the last ten years, and the steep increase in food and energy prices in late 2022 and early 2023 has made it difficult for many workers to cover their expenses.
Several divisions within the NHS, including nurses and ambulance teams, have secured agreements on their salaries with the government. However, the union representing junior doctors has refused to compromise and talks collapsed towards the end of last year.
If the strike proceeds, it would be the final one for the junior doctors under their current mandate, which ends at the end of this month. Any additional strikes would need to be approved by another vote among the members, which the BMA is currently conducting.
The government is attempting to assign blame for many issues within the NHS to junior doctors, while the main opposition Labour Party, currently leading in opinion polls, is accusing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of hindering progress.
Wes Streeting, the health spokesman for the Labour party, stated that the responsibility for canceled operations and appointments falls on him. He emphasized that this cannot continue as it puts desperate patients and exhausted staff in a difficult position.