Strike by British doctors longest in decades

Henry

Doctors at hospitals in England began the longest continuous strike in the 70-year history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) on Wednesday.

The six-day strike by junior doctors (below consultant level) is a giant step in these doctors’ ongoing salary battle with the British government.

The strike also comes amid a busy time in the country’s healthcare sector due to increased respiratory illnesses brought on by the winter season. Doctors also went on strike for three days shortly before Christmas. People also often postpone their treatment to be with loved ones over the festive period, which usually makes the beginning of January particularly busy.

The NHS says the latest strike – involving around half the country’s medical workforce – will have a significant effect on almost all routine care. The NHS has been struggling for years with large backlogs in the waiting period for appointments and operations. In some cases this has been blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic, but there has been criticism for years about a lack of funding.

“This January could possibly be the most difficult start to a new year in the NHS’s history,” said Stephen Powis, national medical director.

The strike is expected to continue until Tuesday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) announced the strike in December after talks with the government broke down. According to the BMA, doctors were offered a 3% increase, on top of an average increase of 8.8% earlier in the year.

They rejected the offer because the money would be spread unevenly among different doctors and would still lead to pay cuts for many doctors.

Junior doctors have gone on strike at least seven times since March last year.

The strikes were condemned by several hospital leaders, as well as the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.

However, this is not just limited to doctors in England. Doctors in Wales plan to strike for 72 hours from January 15, while doctors in Northern Ireland are also threatening to withdraw their services.

In Scotland, doctors have reached an agreement with the government.