Health workers’ actions in UK escalate as junior doctors announce strike

Junior doctors from the British Medical Association are the latest in line to announce industrial action over government disregard and deterioration of working conditions

February 21, 2023 by Peoples Health Dispatch
UK doctors strike
Activist for junior doctors’ rights during a picket line. (Photo: BMA Junior Doctors)

Junior doctors in England will be the next to join the wave of health workers’ industrial action in March. On Monday, February 20, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced the results of a strike ballot vote conducted among their junior doctor members, in which 98% of those who took part voted in favor of the strike. 

Striking remains the last resort for health workers, but they have said that the cost of living crisis and lack of investment in salaries has led them to take this step. According to the BMA, since 2008, junior doctors have experienced a 25% cut to their income. The cut has been accompanied by growing pressure in the workplace, undermining of the National Health Service (NHS), and the effects of a long-lasting staff shortage.

Judging from the overwhelming support among BMA members, the junior doctors’ 72-hour long action is certain to add to the list of problems faced by UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay. In addition to doctors, nurses have announced they will scale up their fight for decent working conditions and strike from March 1 to 3. Despite growing mobilization among health workers, the government continues to avoid serious negotiations over health staff’s grievances. 

Also read: British nurses are struggling to save NHS from privatization 

The BMA, however, remains confident that the junior doctors’ strike will force Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet to take the matter seriously. Dr Robert Laureson, co-chair of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, said in a statement: “The excuses, flimsy arguments, and implicit threats will no doubt continue filtering out from Westminster, but make no mistake: this is a result the Government cannot ignore. The Government is not an immovable object, but we are an unstoppable force.”

Members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA, the hospital doctors’ union) will also be going on strike next month, after 97% of their junior doctor members voted in favor of industrial action. The hospital doctors’ union president, Dr. Naru Narayanan, warned that the doctors’ actions should be seen as part of the general efforts to support the NHS. 

“This is a critical issue for our NHS. If the government does not increase pay as part of a wider funding package then the current ragged workforce will collapse and the hospital consultants of the future will vote with their feet and leave. We are teetering on the edge of a precipice. Now is the time to negotiate a way out of this crisis,” Dr Narayanan said in the HCSA statement.

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