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England’s health crisis to deepen amid latest doctors’ strike

England’s health crisis to deepen amid latest doctors’ strike
A doctor holds a stethoscope on September 5, 2012. (Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images)

England’s hospitals face major disruption this week when junior doctors begin a three-day walkout in the latest row over pay and conditions. 

The strike, which starts on Wednesday, “will have an enormous impact on routine care” and worsen the country’s long waiting lists, said Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service.

The British Medical Association’s industrial action follows a similar 72-hour walkout in March and a 96-hour protest in April. More than 542,000 appointments have already been rescheduled due to strikes since December according to NHS Providers, a group that represents trusts in the state-run system.

Elderly people are particularly at risk this week, the NHS said, as temperatures soar.

Britain risks another summer of strikes as rail workers, airport staff, teachers and civil servants remain in dispute over pay following a cost-of-living crisis that has lasted for more than a year. The health service walkouts also risk undermining one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s five key promises to voters — to get NHS waiting lists down.

“As we enter the seventh month of industrial action across the NHS, and as this action becomes more frequent, we are now seeing an extraordinary cumulative impact on our services and crucially on our staff,” Powis said. 

The BMA’s current strike mandate, backed by 98% of voting members, lasts until August, with the union planning to ballot members for the right to hold strikes into next year.

Ministers and junior doctors have been urged to cede ground by the NHS Confederation, another membership group in the health system.

Consultants and other senior doctors are also being balloted for strike action, with the BMA threatening walkouts toward the end of July. Hundreds of thousands of nurses could also strike again.

The government’s pay offer was accepted by most unions representing NHS staff last month, but two unions including the Royal College of Nursing rejected it and pledged to stage more action. The offer did not apply to doctors, who are subject to separate negotiations. DM

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  • Paddy Ross says:

    The NHS was established in 1948 and soon thereafter it was decided by the government and the hospital doctors that in order to avoid wrangling each year over remuneration a Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) would be established to determine each year appropriate remuneration levels. This Body comprised economists, financiers, actuaries etc. to receive evidence separately from government and from the professions.
    There was a mutually accepted clause in the initiating agreement that government would accept the DDRB’s recommendations unless there were clear and compelling reasons for not doing so.
    Inevitably, politicians being politicians, ‘compelling reasons’ started to arise occasionally but have become the annual norm over the last several decades. The blatant disregard of politicians of several governments to observe the initial agreement to avoid potential conflict is the cause of the current situation. The salaries of NHS hospital consultants has fallen in real terms in the region of 30% over the last decade.

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