LONDON (AP) — Patients faced canceled treatments after thousands of British doctors walked off the job Wednesday, the start of a six-day strike over pay that is set to be the longest in the history of state funding. National Health Service.
Tens of thousands of appointments and operations could be postponed across the UK as junior doctors in the first years of their careers walk out, managers said. Doctors, who are the backbone of hospital and clinic care, plan to stay off work until 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Senior doctors and other doctors are drafted in for emergency services, critical care and maternity services.
Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, an organization of heath care managers, said: “The immediate strike comes at one of the toughest times of the year for the health service after the Christmas and New Year period because of the demands pressures. Of course we have flu, we have Covid.
“So that can have a significant impact on patients,” he said.
Britain has endured a year Strikes across the health sector Employees sought wage hikes to offset the rising cost of living. Unions say wages have fallen in real terms over the past decade, particularly in the public sector, and double-digit inflation in late 2022 and early 2023, food and energy prices have risen sharply, leaving many workers struggling to pay the bills.
The union says newly qualified doctors earn 15.53 pounds ($19.37) an hour – the UK minimum wage is just 10 pounds an hour – with salaries rising rapidly after the first year.
28-year-old Dr. Georgia Blackwell said stress and low pay are driving many doctors to work overseas.
“A lot of doctors are moving to Australia – not only is the pay better, but the work-life balance is better,” he said.
outings They have strained an already stretched health service that is still struggling to recover from setbacks created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the strikes were having a “serious impact on patients”, with more than 1.2 million appointments being rescheduled in the months since the wave of industrial action began.
Impact is difficult to quantify. Some say delays in testing and treatment due to strikes could be behind the rise in overdose deaths in the UK, which in 2023 was the highest since the pandemic year of 2020.
However, there is no conclusive evidence of a link, with factors including Covid-19 and an aging population contributing to the rise in deaths in the UK and other countries.
Nurses, ambulance crews and senior doctors have reached pay deals with the government, but the union representing junior doctors broke off talks late last year. The government says it will not hold further talks until doctors call off the strike, while medical union the British Medical Association says it will not hold talks until it receives a “credible” pay offer.
The government gave doctors an 8.8% pay rise last year, but the union says it's not enough as junior doctors' pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008.
“We are hell-bent on calling strikes and what we want to do is not call strikes at all,” said Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the British Medical Association's junior doctors group. “What we want is to negotiate an offer that we can make to our members and have our members accept it.”