Doctors last struck in 2016—this time they’re even better organised

Furious NHS doctors are planning strikes to win back pay lost since 2008. Their BMA union says that action is now “inevitable” and will expose the terrible state of the health service after more than a decade of Tory cuts.

“There’s a groundswell of support among junior doctors for strikes,” said Dr Jackie Applebee, a member of the union’s council, speaking to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. She says the BMA is demanding years of below-inflation deals come to an end, and that over the next five years doctors’ pay rises by 30 percent.

That would bring earnings back into line with 14 years ago. “The junior doctors are far better organised than they were during the last strike in 2016, and they are up for a fight,” said Jackie.

Junior doctors include almost all qualified medics below the grade of consultant. They are a vital part of the NHS, but are treated appallingly.

They often work alone in high pressure environments. And they are under huge pressure to plug the growing gaps in the health service.

Many have described a toxic working life where it is difficult to speak out and conditions are terrible.

BMA leader Philip Banfield said, “It’s almost inevitable that the path taken by whatever government happens next will lead us into direct collision with them.

“Why are we doing it? If you don’t have doctors, you don’t have the NHS.” It takes at least seven years of training for doctors to reach the lowest rungs of the profession. 

Most junior doctors complete their initial learning with at least £100,000 worth of debt. But starting pay for a speciality registrar can be as little as £35,000 a year.

Anger among medics is not confined to junior doctors. Jackie said that doctors working in general practice are not far behind, and neither are hospital consultants. The BMA expects to ballot members towards the end of the year, with any action taking place next spring.

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