February 24, 2024

Junior doctors are on strike in England

/Picture Alliance, MPs, Owen Humphreys

London hospital doctors in England have launched the longest continuous strike in the 70-year history of the NHS. Junior doctors have stopped work for 6 days since this morning. Striking doctors held placards outside a hospital in London demanding better funding for the NHS.

Many doctors are moving to Australia, not only because of the pay, but because the work-life balance is better, said 28-year-old doctor Georgia Blackwell. “Other countries understand that doctors here are not paid fairly,” says medical student Shivani Ganesh.

It is the second strike in less than two weeks in a months-long wage dispute. Industrial disputes come at a busy time of year.

Traditionally, the NHS sees more hospital admissions in the two weeks after Christmas as people postpone treatment due to the festive period. Additionally, work pressure is high due to winter respiratory diseases.

The NHS said the strike would have a significant impact on almost all routine care. Half of the medical staff may go on strike. NHS medical director Stephen Powis is expecting one of the toughest starts to the year in the history of the health service.

Health Minister Victoria Atkins warned of the dire impact the strike would have on patients. He said more than 1.2 million appointments had to be postponed since the industrial action began.

Last month there were 88,000 appointments. “I call on the BMA's medical aid group to abandon the strike and return to the negotiating table so that a fair and just solution can be found to end the strikes once and for all,” Atkins said.

Doctors' union the British Medical Association (BMA) announced strike action in early December. According to the BMA, the negotiated three per cent increase in salary was in addition to an average salary increase of 8.8 per cent already agreed in the summer.

They rejected the offer, citing uneven distribution among different groups of doctors and arguing that the offer would mean a pay cut for many more doctors.

Union representative Robert Lawrenson said strikes were the only answer for the British government. He warned that further action would be taken if London did not provide a credible offer.

According to government figures, junior doctors in the UK earn around £32,000 (around €37,000) in their first year of training. Adjusted for inflation, wages have fallen by almost a quarter since 2008, according to the PMA. Inflation in Great Britain has been higher than in many Western countries over the past two years.

There have already been several strikes in the health care system in England last year, leading to delays in treatments and cancellations of appointments for hundreds of thousands of patients.

Recently, junior doctors stopped work three days before Christmas. The NHS, which has been underfunded for years, has suffered a major setback since the coronavirus pandemic.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland health policy is the responsibility of local governments; The British Government in London is solely responsible for England. © afp/aerzteblatt.de