UK Doctors’ Strike: A Warning for Healthcare System and Patients

The British Medical Association said junior doctors would strike from 7 am on 27 June until 7 am on 2 July. A crippling cost-of-living crisis, burnout and well below-inflation pay rises are driving hard-working doctors out of their profession. UK doctors’ strike has postponed appointments, operations and procedures.

The strike centres on a long-running pay dispute between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Government. However, the Government, led by the Prime Minister, has made no credible offer. Knowing that the strikes disabled Britain’s healthcare system, Rishi Sunak called their action political and took no steps to solve it.

UK doctors’ strike: Patients problems

Health leaders warned the five-day strike would jeopardize efforts to tackle the record waiting list and “hit patients hard“. This will be the 11th strike by junior doctors in this dispute after their first action in March 2023. The last doctor strike postponed 91,048 appointments, operations and procedures.

According to APnews, managers said the UK doctors’ strike will postpone tens of thousands of appointments and operations. The doctors, who form the backbone of hospital and clinic care, plan to stay off the job until 7 am on Tuesday.

UK doctors’ strike: At breaking point or already broken?

To many Britons, the entire system feels broken and public confidence in the NHS has fallen sharply. Dr Georgia Blackwell from St. Thomas’ London Hospital said stress and low pay drove many doctors to take overseas jobs. “Many doctors are moving to Australia for its pay, and the work-life balance is better,” she said. The walkouts have strained the already stretched health service, which is still struggling to recover from backlogs created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of the NHS causes much misery among patients and frustration among already exhausted health professionals. Seventy-five years ago, the United Kingdom became the first large country to make health services “free at the point of care.” As the NHS goes, so goes this paradigm, considering staff dissatisfaction.

The impact of the strike

What impact will the strike action have? A huge impact. The last strike, before Christmas, lasted for three days, and it postponed nearly 90,000 appointments and operations. NHS officials believe this strike will lead to the rescheduling of many more appointments.

A year of industrial action by NHS staff has already led to 1.2m postponed appointments, costing the NHS about £2bn. “Every strike sends shockwaves through the NHS, impacting patients and staff with little time to recover in between,” said Sir Julian Hartley.

Conservative Party and Response to the Strike

The doctor accuses the Conservative Government of deliberately underfunding the NHS to force patients into private health care. After 18 months of talks between junior doctors in England and the Government, the Prime Minister has still made no credible offer to junior doctors.

“We cancel the forthcoming strikes if the government puts forward a credible offer,” Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said. The Conservative Government has said it won’t negotiate unless the union calls off the strike. “We already provided them with a pay increase of up to 10.3%. We can go further,” said Health Secretary Victoria Atkins. “I ask the junior doctors’ committee to cancel their action. They return to the table to find a way forward for patients and our NHS.”

Rishi Sunak: Crisis of doctors’ strike

The development will pressure Sunak to end the row. If it remains unresolved, he faces the prospect of mass disruption across the NHS days before millions of voters choose the next Government. Sunak’s reaction deepens the problem, making the election more challenging for him.

Union leaders say Prime Minister Rishi Sunak can stop the strike and make a “concrete commitment to restore doctors’ pay” as part of his re-election campaign. After calling the general election last week, the BMA gave the Government a final opportunity to make an offer and avoid strikes. However, the Government did not take up the opportunity. Therefore, the BMA’s junior doctors committee has announced further strike dates concurrent with the run-up to the General Election.

Unhelpful Reaction of Rishi Sunak to UK doctors’ strike

Rishi Sunak questioned the strike’s timing and said it might be to help Labour. “On the same day as Labour is having a health day, it raises the question of its political motivation,” he said. “It’s just the junior doctors who have failed to find a resolution despite their offer of a deal worth a 10% increase, and we can keep talking.”The BMA denied accusations that it had timed its announcement to coincide with Labour’s Health Day. A spokesperson said: “Sunak himself determined the timing of this strike announcement by calling an election one week ago. After that, we gave his Government a last opportunity to make a credible offer. We called strikes when it was clear that none was coming.”

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