Thousands of young doctors began a four-day strike in England on Tuesday, a new movement to press for better pay amid a crisis in the cost of living and an already stretched health service.
“This is the most disruptive mobilization in the history of the NHS (Public Health Service) and the strikes will put enormous pressure on,” NHS England’s medical director Stephen Powis said.
According to the NHS Confederation, an organization representing healthcare professionals, up to 350,000 non-urgent appointments could be postponed. The junior doctors had already gone on strike for three days last month, affecting 175,000 appointments.
In England, trainees (“junior doctors”) make up half of all hospital doctors, ranging from young doctors out of university to trainees with more than eight years’ experience.
The four-day strike, which began on Tuesday morning and will last until Saturday morning, has some workers already on holiday after the long Easter weekend.
“We cannot withdraw half the medical staff without compromising patient safety,” NHS Confederation director general Matthew Taylor told ITV.
The BMA union, which represents practitioners, says these doctors have lost 26% of their pay since 2008, when austerity measures were imposed on the health service.
The union is demanding a 35% pay rise, which Health Minister Steve Barclay has called “unfair”.
“People Don’t Care”
Phil Stucliffe, a 75-year-old cancer patient, had his appointment canceled on Tuesday, along with doctors on strike at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
“These doctors are doing an amazing job for very little pay,” he told Britain’s PA news agency.
Katrina Forsyth, a 29-year-old doctor who joins the picket line after a night call, said she regularly returns home in tears as she often has to tell three or four families each day that a loved one has died.
“We got a round of applause during COVID,” he told PA, “but when it comes to actually struggling to pay the rent, people don’t care.”
The NHS is in deep crisis, weakened by austerity policies and the effects of the pandemic. Inflation in the United Kingdom has been above 10% for months and is weighing on purchasing power.
Nurses and other health workers or even railway workers have stopped their movement after receiving government concessions on improved wages.
A major strike by teachers and government workers is planned for the end of this month.
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