Doctors in England start historic four-day strike over pay


Published: 2023-04-12 12:36

Last Updated: 2024-06-15 15:34

Doctors in England start historic four-day strike over pay
Doctors in England start historic four-day strike over pay

Tuesday, doctors working in England's public health service launched what has been billed as the most disruptive strike in its history, in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

The four-day walkout, which began at 7:00 am, follows months of strikes by other public and private sector staff as inflation sparks the UK's worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

The action by so-called junior doctors -- physicians who are not senior specialists but who may still have years of experience -- comes after a three-day stoppage last month and several strikes by nurses.

It threatens to be the most serious walkout yet and lead to the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of appointments.

They are demanding a pay rise of 35 percent, which they say is needed to help make up for more than a decade of salary cuts in real terms.

They also argue pandemic backlogs coupled with staff shortages are massively increasing workloads, endangering patients.

"We have had a massive (pay) cut and we are filling more gaps because people are leaving," said junior doctor Katrina Forsyth, who added she sometimes wept after shifts.

"It's becoming less safe for patients," she said from a picket line after finishing a night shift at St. Thomas' Hospital in London.

The government maintains the BMA's request is unaffordable, as ministers try to dampen wage demands across the public sector amid stagnant growth and high inflation.

After slowing for three straight months, the Consumer Prices Index shot up to 10.4 percent in February -- close to 40-year highs and more than five times the target set by the Bank of England.

"I hoped to begin formal pay negotiations with the BMA last month but its demand for a 35 percent pay rise is unreasonable," said Health Secretary Steve Barclay.

"If the BMA is willing to move significantly from this position and cancel strikes we can resume confidential talks and find a way forward, as we have done with other unions."