Tens of thousands of physicians in Britain are preparing for a four-day walkout at the state-funded healthcare system, which one official said on Monday might be “catastrophic” and cause the cancellation of up to 350,000 appointments.
Early-career doctors working for the National Health Service are scheduled to go on strike beginning Tuesday, joining other public employees from many sectors demanding pay increases amid the current cost-of-living crisis.
Last month, a three-day doctors’ strike rendered the system incapable of clearing the pandemic-era appointment backlog, which has increased wait times for doctor appointments.
According to Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation, “These strikes will have a disastrous impact on the capacity of the NHS to recover.” The health system must handle a lot of demand while reducing the enormous backlog.
That’s difficult to accomplish even in the best circumstances, and it’s impossible when strikes are ongoing.
Real wages have declined due to rising food and heating prices and inflation above 10%, and individuals are finding it difficult to pay their bills.
To restore junior doctor compensation to 2008 levels, the doctors’ organization, the British Medical Association, has requested a 35% pay increase. Newly licensed physicians make slightly more than 14 pounds ($17).
Several public sector unions have not, even though others have negotiated deals with the government. Nurses are still voting on a settlement offered last month, while teachers recently rejected a pay hike offer.
The Department of Health and Social Services has asked that strikes be called off before negotiations begin, calling the doctors’ demand “unrealistic” and claiming that the strikes were organized to “create maximum disruption.”
Taylor urged that the government and the union hire outside mediators to assist in breaking the impasse after claiming that the strikes would jeopardize patient safety.
Emergency, urgent, and necessary treatment will be prioritized during the strikes, which NHS England’s national medical director Stephen Powis predicted would be the most disruptive in the health system’s history.