Many specialist doctors in the British public healthcare sector hung up their stethoscopes on Thursday and began a two-day strike that threatens to bring routine healthcare to a standstill.
This is only the third time that senior specialist doctors in England have suspended their services to take part in protest action. However, this is not the first strike the British state-run health service has faced.
Some health workers have been on strike for eight months. This includes junior doctors and ambulance staff who stopped their services earlier this year in the hope of, among other things, better pay.
More than 600,000 doctors’ appointments have been affected in the process as it becomes increasingly difficult to get health services in England back on track.
As part of their strike, specialist doctors will not only not see patients at all for 48 hours; nor will they supervise junior doctors’ work. This will undoubtedly have a major effect on thousands of patients’ doctor’s appointments.
“This could undoubtedly be the most serious consequences we have yet seen in the National Health Service (NHS) due to strikes – with routine care coming to a standstill for almost 48 hours,” says Stephen Powis, medical director of the NHS in England.
The strike started at 07:00 this morning and will last until Saturday at 07:00. Another strike is planned for next month.
The doctors are demanding better pay after years of getting raises that were less than the British inflation rate and this gradually eroded their salaries.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents consultants, says senior specialists’ income after deductions has fallen by 35% since 2008.
The demands come after junior doctors went on strike for five days earlier this month over pay and staff retention. It was their third strike since April. The strikes resulted in delayed treatment and canceled appointments for thousands of patients.
Nurses and ambulance staff also went on strike earlier this year before finally accepting a 5% salary increase in May.
The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, told the doctors to return to work and warned that the government would no longer negotiate on higher salaries. Sunak said earlier this month that the government had accepted recommendations from independent wage review bodies for salary increases of between 5% and 7% in the civil service.
Sunak says this offer was “final”.
“No amount of strikes will change our decision.”