Thousands of senior doctors in the UK have initiated a 48-hour walkout starting Thursday, demanding improved pay and working conditions. Causing significant disruptions in hospitals and leading to emergency care being the only service available.
The walkout marks the latest wave of industrial action taken by public sector workers amidst the U.K.’s ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Just two days ago, junior doctors participated in a five-day strike. The longest in the history of the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).
As a result of the senior doctors’ strike, thousands of scheduled operations and appointments have been cancelled. Exacerbating the strain on the country’s public health system. The impact of this round of strikes is expected to be particularly severe since almost no hospital work can be carried out without supervision by senior doctors.
During the walkout, senior doctors, who are known as consultants in the UK will only be available for “on-call” duties related to critical cancer care and other urgent work until Saturday morning.
The Conservative government has offered a 6% pay increase to the doctors, but the British Medical Association (BMA), the union representing the doctors, has dismissed this offer as “derisory.” The BMA has pointed out that doctors’ real-term take-home pay has fallen by more than a third over the past 14 years. And accused authorities of refusing to engage in negotiations on pay-related matters.
Strike highlights growing financial challenges faced by doctors in the UK
Dr Vishal Sharma, an executive of the BMA, expressed that many in the medical profession feel “undervalued and overworked.” He stated that the decision to strike was not taken lightly. But was driven by the frustration of doctors who believe they have been left with no other recourse.
“Consultants will stand on the picket lines today because we are angry and at rock bottom. We never wanted to be forced into taking this huge step,” Sharma asserts. “Ministers have done absolutely nothing to stop this action from taking place.”
Psychiatrist Polly Christodoulou participated in the picket line outside a hospital in south London. He conveyed that numerous colleagues have chosen to leave for the private sector or even other countries like Australia. As they are offered significantly better wages.
“A lot of us have undergone 15 years or more of training to get to where we are, and that is not being valued,” Christodoulou emphasised. “I want to be able to stay and support the NHS, but it is becoming more and more difficult.”
The ongoing strike highlights the growing dissatisfaction and financial challenges faced by healthcare professionals in the UK. It raises concerns about the potential long-term impact on the NHS and patient care. As the strike continues, the government and the British Medical Association are urged to engage in constructive dialogue to find a resolution and address the doctors’ legitimate grievances.