On 11 April 2023, junior doctors in the UK started a four-day walkout, which is anticipated to be the most disruptive in NHS history. As a result of this four-day walkout up to 250,000 appointments and operations could be cancelled. The British Medical Association (“BMA”) is asking for a 35% pay rise for junior doctors. The Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, has said it was “extremely disappointing” that patients are now at risk and facing delays and cancellations. He also accused organisers of timing the strike just after the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, a period when the NHS faces increased demand to “maximise disruption.”
Why are junior doctors striking?
Currently, more than 40% of the medical workforce are classed as junior doctors, with two-thirds of them members of the BMA. Junior doctors are striking to highlight their wish for a 35% pay rise, which they say is to compensate for 15 years of below inflation wages. However, the Government has said that the pay demand from the BMA is unrealistic, pointing to the deal other health unions – representing nurses and other workers – have recommended to their members, which includes only a 5% pay rise and one-off payment of at least £1,655. Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chairwoman of the BMA hopes this four-day industrial action will be the last, but has reiterated that the Health Secretary Steve Barclay has not put forward any offer at all, so “we will continue” if the Government does not meet or make an offer to the BMA.
What has been said?
Dr Paul Turnbull said:
“As a doctor, I don’t believe doctors should strike. I think our first responsibility is to our patients and I think using patients as pawns in a dispute with the government is not something we should be doing.”
However, third year junior doctor Rabiat working in a hospital in the south east of England had a different opinion and said:
“It’s quite a common thing that junior doctors are left alone with wards of patients to look after, with their seniors having gone down to A&E or an acute assessment area. We feel really left out and unsupported. Not because our seniors don’t want to support us, but because we are all stretched to our limits. I really hope that the strikes will make the government realise that this is really having a big impact on junior doctors – and the whole of the NHS – and more actually needs to be done.”