Following the British people’s protests against growing inflation and the substantial increase in the cost of living, the junior doctors have gone on a general strike. DW published a consolidated report from media, including Reuters, Associated Press and AFP, on the general strike of British doctors. According to the report, tens of thousands of doctors in the UK did not show up for work in hospitals and clinics in what is known as the most destructive general strike in the history of the National Health Service (NHS). The article attempts to find an answer to why hospital appointments are being cancelled.
Thousands of appointment cancellations in the 4-day general strike
According to British health officials, up to 350,000 doctor’s appointments are expected to be cancelled during the four-day strike, and hospitals will be asked to change their admission schedules. Stephen Powis, NHS England’s National Medical Director, said: “This latest round of strikes will see unparalleled levels of disruption, and we are very concerned about the potential severity of impact on patients and services across the country.”
Due to the junior doctors’ strike, nearly 200,000 appointments and hospital practices in England will have to change. Tens of thousands of young doctors staged a 96-hour strike over a pay dispute between April 11 and 15. NHS England data shows that 20,470 inpatient appointments need to be changed, along with 175,755 outpatient appointments, for a total of 196,225. Around 26,145 employees per day were absent due to industrial activities.
The request for a salary increase
British doctors have embarked on a general strike over their demand for a pay rise to compensate for rising inflation. The crisis has engulfed all public health services in the UK, and the latest round of strikes comes as the NHS faces around seven million patients waiting for treatment in hospitals. On behalf of doctors, the British Medical Association (BMA) has demanded a 35% increase in wages to compensate for the 15-year increase below the inflation rate. According to the union, the current strike could be stopped if Health Secretary Steve Barclay made a reasonable pay offer.
Opposition to the 35% increase in doctors’ wages
The British Health Secretary called the demand for a 35% increase in doctors’ wages unreasonable and, in a statement, strongly criticised their strike: “We’ve been engaging with ACAS during this dispute and remain open to considering whether there is a role for them to help us reach the desired outcome – an end to strike action which is putting patient safety at risk.” The doctors join hundreds of thousands of public sector workers across the UK who have been on general strike for the past months. Nurses across the UK went on strike this winter.
Great concern for the UK health system
Before the start of the four-day strike by doctors, Dr Layla McCay, policy director at the NHS Confederation, said that the impact is expected to be much greater than the three-day strike by doctors last month. “The impact is going to be so significant that this one is likely to have an impact on patient safety, and that is a huge concern for every healthcare leader,” McKay added.
Increased waiting time to start the treatment period
Each of the 195,000 postponed appointments will affect the lives of patients and their families, putting further pressure on services and an overstretched workforce. This is likely to have underestimated the impact of these measures, as some areas are temporarily off schedule. The latest figures show that 7.22 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of February. The Prime Minister said he was “still hopeful” NHS waiting lists would be reduced.
RCN to join strikes
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is set to return to the picket line after a pay offer was rejected. Sir Julian Hartley, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Nobody in the NHS wants patients to be left waiting longer for appointments, but the disruption caused by strikes is piling even more pressure on overstretched services already facing a chronic capacity crunch, putting a brake on progress in bringing down waiting lists.”
Preparation of nurses for an unprecedented strike
Protesting against low wages and overwork in the UK, nurses have rejected Rishi Sunak’s government’s offer to increase their salaries. They are preparing to hold a crippling strike in this country. The Royal College of Nurses announced that its members plan to stop providing medical services in sensitive areas of health centres such as emergency, intensive care and cancer wards in an unprecedented move. This protest movement is planned for April 30 and 48 hours.
Growing increase in the death rates after the medical staff strike
On the other hand, official statistics in England show that deaths increased by 11% during the medical workers’ strike. Statistical data indicate that the waiting time for patients to receive medical services in England had also reached the highest level since 2007, when the collection of statistics in this field began. However, the British Medical Association says these statistics have nothing to do with the staff strike.
Rishi Sunak’s promise to improve UK healthcare
Rishi Sunak’s government has promised to improve the UK’s healthcare system and reduce waiting times. However, hospital managers believe that realising such goals will be unlikely due to the growing protests of the medical staff. The RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, has written to the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, asking for further negotiations on the payment of the protesting staff. She clarified that the offer of a 5% increase in nurses’ salaries is not enough, and those who were on the front lines of the fight against this crisis during the Covid-19 epidemic expect to receive a better financial offer.
The Dissatisfaction with the UK Health System
Two months ago, the British Prime Minister held a joint emergency meeting with the presence of the secretaries of finance, health and protesting unions. Still, it did not bring a concrete result that would prevent the continuation of the strikes. This meeting led to the formation of a headquarters inside the hospitals to distribute the patients among the medical centres when the employees of this department were on strike. The results of the latest research also show that most British people are dissatisfied with the performance of the UK health system amid a sharp drop in medical services and a widespread strike by doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers.
The deterioration of the UK health system
The UK health system has performed poorly in recent years. The common findings of a survey by the prestigious YouGov and The Times show that according to two-thirds of the British people, the level of medical services in this country is dire, and 80% believe that the situation has worsened over the past five years, that is, after UK left the EU. British medical workers have gone on several strikes recently, but Rishi Sunak’s conservative government is unwilling to improve their working conditions and raise wages.