UK doctors vote to strike amid widespread industrial action in hospitals

Young doctors in the UK’s public health system are preparing to vote on a possible strike in the new year, an industry body has announced.

The British Medical Association has asked the government for urgent pay talks as dissatisfaction with the existing pay deal grows, Mail Online reports.

Junior doctors – qualified clinicians engaged in postgraduate training – received a 2% raise from ministers in their latest pay award. But the BMA has called for a 26% hike as inflation soars and workers continue to come under extreme pressure.

According to Mail Online, this would theoretically see a young doctor’s starting salary rise from £30,000 ($36,000) to around £37,800 ($45,000).

Looking for other jobs

A recent BMA survey found that up to 40% of doctors in training are looking for alternative jobs, with a third looking for jobs outside the UK.

Like other health unions engaged in industrial action, BMA leaders say poor conditions and below-average pay are leaving the country’s national health service struggling to fill vacancies, ultimately putting security patients at risk.

Commenting on the results of BMA’s investigation, the organisation’s chairman, Professor Philip Banfield, said: “The situation is serious. A third of young doctors plan to work in another country. Four in ten say that as soon as they can find another job they will leave the NHS. The health service simply will not be able to cope.

“For decades the NHS has been the envy of the world. But without the expertise of our doctors, the country will become sicker. We will not accept impoverished healthcare for our nation, nor acquiesce to those who seek to cut wages and lower living standards for NHS staff. In 2023, we will stand with patients, an organized workforce ready to act.

Some experts say the country’s longstanding recruitment and retention problems have also been exacerbated by outside factors like Brexit.

A recent report by the Nuffield Trust think tank found that several currently understaffed specialties recruited high levels of European-trained doctors before the country voted to leave the European Union.

Hospitals in a more vulnerable position

This is not the first time that young doctors plan to come out. In 2015, they voted to strike over a contract dispute. The action was initially called off after lengthy negotiations between the BMA and the government.

But young doctors took industrial action three times in 2016.

This time around, hospitals are in a much more vulnerable position, with a lack of social care capacity keeping patients in beds longer than medically necessary and making it harder to admit new patients. Meanwhile, many employees feel exhausted after nearly three years of battling Covid-19.

Hospitals have already withstood three days of strikes by nurses and paramedics in this highly pressured environment. In December, nurses limited their activity on December 20 and 25, while paramedics limited their interventions on December 21.

The staff of the two groups could again strike four times in January if wage negotiations do not take place.

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