- Health officials war unprecedented turmoil
- Tens of thousands of junior doctors are on strike
LONDON (Reuters) – Junior doctors in Britain on Tuesday began a four-day strike over their pay that is likely to cause unprecedented disruption to the state-funded National Health Service, prompting the government to warn of the risk. Patient safety.
Tens of thousands of junior doctors — the qualified doctors who make up nearly half of the medical workforce — are striking for pay increases better in line with inflation, in a strike that followed a three-day strike by doctors last month.
Stephen Boyce, England’s National Medical Director, said: “This latest round of strikes will see unprecedented levels of disruption, and we are deeply concerned about the potential severity of the impact on patients and services across the country.”
“We have also asked (hospitals) to reschedule procedures and outpatients as quickly as possible, but this will take weeks to recover,” Boyce told BBC Radio, adding that the NHS was working to ensure emergency services were kept intact.
The head of the NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across the healthcare sector, told Sky News he expected up to 350,000 appointments to be canceled during the four-day strike.
The strike is the latest to take part in NHS staff, following a strike by nurses, paramedics and others demanding raises that better reflect annual inflation of more than 10%.
It comes as the NHS faces one of the most severe crises in its 75-year history, being overwhelmed by around 7 million patients awaiting treatment in hospital, severely affecting areas such as cardiovascular care.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made reducing hospital waiting times one of his main priorities amid eroding public satisfaction with an institution that has long been a source of national pride.
The British Medical Association (BMA), the union representing doctors, wants a 35% pay rise, arguing that members have suffered a 26% cut in pay over 15 years.
The British Medical Association said strikes by junior doctors, some of them experienced, could stop if Health Secretary Steve Barclay made a credible pay offer.
“Not only will the strikes threaten patient safety, they are timed to maximize disruption after the Easter weekend,” Barclay said in a statement.
He says the BMA’s demands are unreasonable and would mean an increase of more than 20,000 pounds ($24,840) for some doctors.
The doctors joined hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers who have gone on strike in Britain, including railway workers, teachers and civil servants.
Disagreements have been resolved in some sectors in recent weeks.
($1 = 0.8052 pounds)
Additional writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Kate Holton and Alex Richardson
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