On 23 June, hospital doctors in England announced the longest strike in the 75-year history of the NHS. As ever, it’s part of the ongoing row over pay and working conditions.
The British Medical Association (BMA) stated that Junior doctors – those below consultant level – will stage a walkout. They’ll start on 7:00 on July 13, and continue until the same time on July 18.
The stoppage follows a 72-hour strike earlier this same month. It was in opposition to the government’s refusal to budge on its offer of just a 5% pay increase.
Rock-bottom real-terms pay
Medics have seen a 29% real-terms pay cut in real terms in the last 15 years. Salaries have completely failed to keep pace with runaway inflation.
They want pay restored to 2008-2009 levels. However, the government says this would mean an average pay award of about 35% this year. This, they claim, would be too costly.
Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, who jointly chair the BMA junior doctors’ committee, echoed the by-now familiar warning that the government seemed intent on letting the NHS “decline to the point of collapse”.
They highlighted a BMA survey that said 53% of the nearly 2,000 junior doctors who responded had received offers to move abroad in the past four months. The government of South Australia state had even paid for advertising trucks to be sent to picket lines offering better pay if doctors emigrated, they claimed.
Laurenson and Trivedi said the government was refusing to reopen talks on pay. In turn, this is forcing them to stage their record-breaking strike. They added that:
With the 75th birthday of the NHS just days away, neglect of its workforce has left us with 7.4m people on waiting lists for surgery and procedures, 8,500 unfilled doctors’ posts in hospitals, and doctors who can barely walk down the road without a foreign government tempting them to leave an NHS where they are paid £14 per hour for a country which will pay them properly.
The government could avert the strike if it comes up with a “credible offer” on pay restoration, they added.
NHS: 75 years of service
The government’s refusal to budge is playing a dangerous game with the public’s health. The inevitable strikes have hit patient care, forcing the cancellation or rescheduling of appointments.
Health officials say this has disrupted services during the ongoing battles to clear a huge backlog in treatment caused by years of under-funding and under-staffing, and by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The BMA has stated that junior doctors feel:
their patients are behind them in their fight for fair pay, with 82% reporting they had found their patients supportive of industrial action.
As Laurenson and Trivedi stressed, the government could easily halt the industrial action with a credible pay offer. They finished by saying that pay restoration would:
lead to a future 75 years of doctors being paid fairly, in a rebuilt workforce and NHS that this country can continue to be proud of.
The NHS has protected Britain’s health for 75 years. It remains to be seen whether the Tory government will, in turn, move to protect the NHS.
Featured image via Flikr/Garry Knight, public domain, resized to 770*403.