London, Jan 3 (EFE).- Junior doctors in England began a six-day strike on Wednesday to demand better wage conditions, marking the longest such strike in the history of the country’s National Health Service (NHS).
The doctors left their duties at 7am GMT and are set to resume at the same time on Jan. 9, which is set to be the longest strike the NHS was founded in 1948.
These doctors, who already stopped work for 28 days in 2023, returned to the picketing line after negotiations between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the British government broke out in December.
The group, numbering about 75,000 professionals in the region of England – half of the workforce, in the country’s most populous territory – rejected an offer of 8.8 percent pay hike, claiming they needed at least 26 percent to compensate for the loss of purchasing power since 2008.
BMA spokesperson Robert Laurenson told EFE that over the last 15 years, the names of about 7.6 million people have piled up on waiting lists, not due to the pandemic, but mismanagement.
“And the government’s response year after year seems to be to cut doctors’ salaries. We have lost 26 percent of our salary and we are only asking for its restoration, starting with 21 pounds an hour (about 24 euros)” compared to the current 14 pounds, he said.
The current strike will mainly affect scheduled consultations, many of which have been canceled as remaining doctors are expected to attend to the emergencies.
Junior doctors in Wales are also planning a 72-hour strike from Jan. 15, while those in Northern Ireland are also considering going on strike. Medical professionals in Scotland already reached an agreement with the autonomous government in 2023.
Last year, numerous professional groups in the UK went on strike, including nurses, ambulance staff and specialist doctors, as well as postmen, customs and rail workers.
Strikes by doctors in 2023 led to the cancellation of more than 1.2 million appointments, costing the NHS around £2 billion, according to official data.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said Wednesday that the striking doctors should return to the negotiating table in order to find a just and reasonable solution that will put an end to these strikes. EFE