LONDON (AP) — Patients faced having their treatments canceled after thousands of British doctors quit their jobs Wednesday, beginning a six-day strike over wages that was set to be the longest in the history of the state-funded institution. National Health Service.
Directors said tens of thousands of appointments and operations would be postponed due to the strike across England by junior doctors, who are in the early years of their careers. Doctors, who form the backbone of hospital and clinic care, plan to stay off work until 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Senior doctors and other clinicians have been appointed to cover emergency, critical care and maternity services.
Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the strike came at one of the most difficult times of the year for the health service, “right after the Christmas and New Year period because of the pressures of demands, and of course we have the flu, we have the coronavirus.
“So there will be a big impact on patients,” he said.
Britain has endured a year of Ongoing strikes in the health sector Employees sought higher wages to compensate for the rising cost of living. Unions say wages, especially in the public sector, have fallen in real terms over the past decade, and that inflation exceeding 10% in late 2022 and early 2023, due to sharp rises in food and energy prices, has left many workers struggling to pay bills.
The union says newly qualified doctors earn £15.53 ($19.37) per hour – the UK minimum wage is just over £10 per hour – although salaries rise quickly after the first year.
On a picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in central London, 28-year-old Dr Georgia Blackwell said stress and low wages were pushing many doctors to accept jobs abroad.
“A lot of doctors are moving to Australia – not only because of the salary, but also the work-life balance is better,” she said.
Picnics This has strained an already overstretched health service which is still struggling to recover from backlogs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Victoria Atkins said the strikes were having a “serious impact on patients”, with more than 1.2 million appointments rescheduled in the months after the wave of industrial action began.
The impact is difficult to measure. Some claim that delays in testing and treatment due to strikes may be to blame for a surge in excess deaths in the UK, which reached its highest levels in 2023 since the 2020 pandemic year.
However, there is little solid evidence of a link, with factors including Covid-19 and an aging population contributing to increased deaths in the UK and other countries.
Nurses, ambulance crews and senior doctors reached pay agreements with the government, but the union representing junior doctors held out, and negotiations collapsed late last year. The government says it will hold no further talks unless doctors call off the strike, while the doctors' union, the British Medical Association, says it will only negotiate if it receives a “credible” pay offer.
The government gave doctors an 8.8% pay rise last year, but the union says it is not enough because salaries for junior doctors have been cut by more than a quarter since 2008.
Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the British Medical Association's Junior Doctors Committee, said: “The idea that we are determined to call strikes and all we want to do is call strikes is not what we want.” “What we want is to negotiate an offer that we can make to our members and for our members to accept.”
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