In an ongoing dispute over wages, hospital doctors in England launched the longest strike in the history of the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) on Friday.
The British Medical Association announced a five-day strike by junior physicians, beginning at 7:00 a.m. (0600 GMT) on July 13 and ending at the same time on July 18.
The walkout comes only days after the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary. It follows a 72-hour strike earlier this month in response to the government’s failure to bend on its promise of a 5% pay raise.
Medics claim that incomes have fallen by 26% in actual terms over the last 15 years as wages have failed to keep up with inflation.
They want salary restored to 2008-2009 levels, but the administration says it would imply a 35 percent pay increase this year, which is too expensive.
The BMA junior doctors’ committee is co-chaired by Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, who say the government appears focused on allowing the NHS to “decline to the point of collapse.”
According to a BMA study, more over half (53 percent) of the roughly 2,000 junior doctors who replied had received offers to relocate abroad in the previous four months.
According to them, the South Australian state government even paid for advertising trucks to be dispatched to picket lines offering greater remuneration if physicians emigrated.
Laurenson and Trivedi said the government was refusing to reopen talks on pay, forcing them to stage “the longest single walkout by doctors in the NHS’s history”.
The strike could be averted if the government comes up with a “credible offer” on pay restoration, they added.
A series of strikes by doctors, nurses and other medical staff over below-inflation pay rises and conditions has hit patient care, forcing the cancellation or rescheduling of appointments.
Officials claim it has hampered services at a time when the service is battling to clear a massive backlog in treatment created by years of underfunding and understaffing, as well as the Covid epidemic.
On July 5, the NHS will celebrate its 75th anniversary. It was established in 1948 to provide free health care “from the cradle to the grave” and is funded by general taxation.