Young doctors in England have joined experts in the first combined NHS strike. On Tuesday, the consultants withdrew and the junior doctors followed suit at around 07:00 BST on Wednesday.
The consultants’ strike organized by the British Medical Association will last two days, while the junior doctors’ strike will last three. Although emergency care will be provided at all times, NHS officials have stated that people are still at risk.
The salary conflict between the government and doctors has intensified.
This week, who is on strike and when is it?
The British Medical Association (BMA) is co-ordinating industrial action by consultants and young doctors in England this week.
Senior doctors will strike from 7 a.m. today until 7 a.m. Thursday. This includes a 24-hour strike by junior doctors from 7am to 7am on Thursday. Junior doctors will pick up from 7am on Wednesday until 7am on Saturday.
How will service be affected?
As a result of strikes by junior doctors and consultants, many routine hospital visits and treatments, including cancer care, have been rescheduled.
Several hospitals have had to reduce their usual levels of activity by half on strike days. Patients have been asked to attend their appointments even if they have not been informed that they have been cancelled, as some doctors are still working.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, hospitals will provide “Christmas Day” coverage, with emergency units staffed and a minimum level of coverage thereafter.
During the junior doctors’ strike on Thursday and Friday, there will be a “full strike”, meaning consultants will be used to cover hospitals.
GP services and pharmacies are expected to operate smoothly during the strikes; However, due to some young doctors working in GP surgeries, some practices may be disrupted from Wednesday.
“The NHS has simply never seen this level of industrial action in its history,” said Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England. “It’s a huge challenge.”
Professor Powis advised the public to use the NHS “wisely” to ensure care is provided to those who need it most. He advised people to call 999 or go to A&E only in life-threatening crises and to contact NHS 111 for non-urgent needs.
What is the reason for the doctors’ strike?
The BMA says the remuneration of junior doctors and consultants has been eroded over the past 15 years, failing to keep pace with inflation.
According to the union, doctors’ income has been reduced by approximately 35%. Junior doctors have asked for a total pay rise of 35%, while consultants have asked for a pay rise of 11%.
In comparison, the government has granted junior doctors a salary increase ranging from 8.1 to 10.3 percent, depending on their level.
The average income of a junior doctor will increase from £29,300 to £32,300 in their first year of training, while a doctor with three years’ experience would see their compensation increase from £40,200 to £43,900.
Meanwhile, consultants’ remuneration will increase by 6%. It means the starting basic salary has increased from £88,300 to £93,600. After overtime and on-call compensation, the typical annual salary of a consultant is estimated at £134,000 a year.
Is the strike likely to have an impact on patients?
According to hospitals, some patients’ appointments have been canceled up to three times due to strikes.
According to the health authorities’ report, there is a “clear risk” that the health of some patients will deteriorate the longer they are made to wait.
While NHS officials claim that around 1 million deliveries have been rescheduled due to the strikes, the actual number of casualties is believed to be significantly higher. Since hospitals no longer regularly turn away patients on strike days, the true extent of the damage will not be reflected in official records.
Is there an end in sight?
Health Secretary Steve Barclay and the British Medical Association, which manages strikes by consultants and junior doctors, last met almost three months ago.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated that the pay offer made by the government is fair and final.
However, BMA officials have stated that they will only suspend action if they are offered a larger pay rise and that they “cannot call off strikes simply to start talks”.
This means there is no end in sight, with the union warning that strikes will continue throughout the winter if a deal is not reached.
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