Doctors in England step up strike action over pay

BMA Joint strike
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Consultants and junior doctors in England went on strike together for the first time on Wednesday 20 September.

The doctors and government are deadlocked over the medics’ pay demands amid the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation.Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted:

Meanwhile, one junior doctor shared from the picket line:

‘Under-staffed and under-resourced’

The strikes are mainly over heavy workloads and below-inflation pay rises. They come after over a decade of Tory cuts to the NHS.

A two-day strike by consultants started on Tuesday 19 September. Junior doctors then joined them for a three-day strike from Wednesday.

Previous industrial action has seen consultants and junior doctors strike at different times, allowing them to cover for each other.

Further joint strikes by consultants and junior doctors are planned for October.

Consultants are pushing for an above-inflation pay award this year – inflation was running at around 11 percent in April. Meanwhile, junior doctors have asked for pay restoration at the rate of 35 percent.

A press release sent out by the the British Medical Association (BMA) in August read:

Against the backdrop of a hugely understaffed and under-resourced health service, junior doctors and consultants have seen their pay drop in real terms by over a third in the past 15 years. The Government continues to refuse to even enter talks with either group to try to bring an end to the disputes.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said:

Consultants and junior doctors walking out together is the awful scenario health leaders have long feared

Taylor said the strike could result in 100,000 operations and appointments being cancelled, taking the total to “well over a million” since the start of the long-running series of walkouts.

Previously, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, had said:

If the Government was in any doubt about doctors’ shared determination to reverse the crisis the NHS is in, to help keep the staff we have and address their pay erosion, today will surely dispel it. Never before have NHS consultants and junior doctors been forced to strike together for days on end, but that is where we have been brought by this Government…

It is only by cooperating with doctors that the Government has a chance of addressing the recruitment and retention crisis the NHS workforce is suffering.

‘Rishi Sunak has nowhere to hide’

Striking doctor Arjan Singh told AFP that the government was to blame for “refusing to negotiate with us in good faith”.

He added:

All we’re asking for is a doctor to be paid £20 ($31, 29 euros) an hour…, for someone who’s going to start life saving treatment for our loved ones.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has told the doctors to call off their stoppages and warned the government will no longer negotiate on higher salaries. He has said the government had accepted recommendations from independent pay review bodies for salary increases of between 5.0 and 7.0 percent in the public sector.

But co-chairs of BMA’s junior doctor committee Dr Vivek Trivedi and Dr Rob Laurenson have said:  

the Prime Minister has the power to halt any further action by making us a credible offer that we can put to our members. Refusing to negotiate with us and with our consultant colleagues is not the way ahead.

Rishi Sunak now has nowhere to hide… If he does not come to the table with a credible offer on pay, he will face another six months of strike action. And another six months after, and after that, if he continues to ignore us…

Managing the strikes has already cost the Government in the region of £1 billion, and that figure – which is what it would cost to settle the junior doctors’ dispute – will continue to rise until the Government makes a credible offer to end the strike action… We have a mandate for six months more strike action, but they can make it much shorter – even a few days – if the Prime Minister was to simply come to the table.  

The strikes are the sixth by junior doctors since March. Consultants have now walked out three times since July.

They are just the latest group — from train drivers to lawyers — who have staged industrial action in the UK as inflation has soared, sending food, housing and other costs spiralling.

Nurses and ambulance staff have also taken strike action, eventually accepting a five-percent pay rise in May.

Featured image via BMA

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

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