West News Wire: Senior doctors in the United Kingdom started a 48-hour boycott on Thursday in protest of their salary and working conditions, paralyzing hospitals and limiting care to just emergency situations.
In light of the ongoing cost-of-living issue in the UK, the significant interruptions are the most recent in months of industrial action by public sector workers. They follow junior physicians’ longest-lasting strikes in the National Health Service’s history, which lasted just two days.
Since almost no work can be done in hospitals without being overseen by a top doctor, health officials believe the latest round of strikes to affect the nation’s public health system will have the worst impact yet. Thousands of operations and appointments have already been postponed.
Senior doctors, known as consultants in the U.K., will only be “on call” for urgent work such as critical cancer care until Saturday morning.
The Conservative government has offered a 6% pay increase to the doctors, but the British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, called this “derisory.” It said doctors have seen real-term take-home pay fall by more than a third over the last 14 years, and accused authorities of refusing to engage in negotiations on pay.
Dr. Vishal Sharma, a union executive, claimed that many people in his profession felt “undervalued and overworked.”
The picket lines will be manned by consultants today because we are furious and at our lowest point. We never intended to be compelled to make such a significant decision,” Sharma said. “Ministers have done nothing at all to prevent this action from occurring.”
Psychiatrist Polly Christodoulou, who joined the picket line in front of a hospital in south London, claimed that many of her coworkers have gone for the private sector or for other nations, such Australia, because the pay there is much better.
“A lot of us have trained for 15-years-plus to get to where we are and that is not being valued,” she said. “I want to be able to stay and support the NHS, but it is becoming more and more difficult.”
Nurses, junior doctors and emergency health care workers have all joined public sector strikes in recent months to demand better pay to cope with soaring food, energy and housing costs. Inflation in the U.K. stood at 7.9% in June, down from double digits earlier in the year, but it’s still far higher than other Group of Seven economies.
Even before the strikes, the National Health Service, a beloved British institution that began life in 1948, was already under huge pressure, stretched by a dwindling workforce, huge backlogs and funding gaps.
Hospital executives have warned that the labor disputes could cost billions of pounds, and that unions and officials must reach a deal soon to end the impasse.