Junior doctors on a picket line in Wales earlier this month (Picture: @BMA_WJDC Twitter)

Junior doctors in England last week landed another stinging blow on the Tories as they voted to continue their strikes over pay.
 
The year-long series of strikes has already blown a hole in prime minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to slash NHS waiting times.
 
Doctors have now voted by 98 percent to continue their action, on a turnout of 61 percent. That means they can strike legally for a further six months, until 19 September.
 
NHS bosses said appointments and scheduled operations will be cancelled during the next phase of strikes.
 
For the government, that means the perilous state of the NHS will be an unwelcome issue in forthcoming local elections, and potentially the general election too.
 
The doctors’ BMA union is demanding pay restoration after years in which junior doctors’ pay has fallen by around a quarter. 
 
Recent research by the Office of Health Economics found that across all grades, doctors’ salaries declined in real terms by 25 percent on average, between 2008 and 2023.
 
That fall, combined with a big rise in the cost of living over the same period, means that junior doctors are much poorer than they used to be.
 
One first-year junior doctor told The British Medical Journal (BMJ) that he can’t afford breakfast.
 
A second-year oncology doctor in London says his pay is “rubbish” and if it wasn’t a job that he enjoyed and spent so much time working towards, “I would probably be doing something else.”
 
The BMJ also spoke to a former ophthalmology trainee who made the difficult decision to quit medicine last year after worrying about affording a gas bill.
 
“I loved medicine, but I hated the pay, and the way doctors were treated,” he said.
 
That’s why the BMA is entirely right to fight for a 35 percent increase—and why they should insist on it, even if a Labour government is elected. 
 
All the signs suggest that Labour in office will keep health workers poor, even if that means a mass exodus of skilled staff. 
 
That danger was ­highlighted this week as new figures showed that almost 9,000 overseas nurses a year are leaving Britain to work abroad. That number doubled between 2021 and 2023. 
 
Most of those quitting are heading to the US, New Zealand or Australia, where nurses are better paid than in Britain—and where better staffing levels lead to less stress and exhaustion. 
 
Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting should commit to a massive increase in NHS spending to get waiting lists down. Instead, he continually punts the private sector as the solution.
 
Labour’s terrible record, and its future plans, are a warning to all health workers. Unions cannot expect better pay and conditions from a new government. 
 
Activists must instead start preparing to bring all NHS staff together to fight for decent pay—and the resources the service ­desperately needs.
 

Junior doctors in Wales began a four-day strike on Monday. It was set to continue until 7am on Friday this week. Joe, a surgical doctor in South Wales, told Socialist Worker that picket lines are “going well”. “I’d like to see many more trade unionists and health campaigners come down and join us,” he said. 

Childcare services lack crucial funding
The government’s promise of 15 hours of free childcare for all two‑year‑olds starting from next week is in desperate trouble.
 
Many nurseries are closing because the government funding of the scheme doesn’t match its costs.
 
Others are passing on the shortfall by increasing their fees for younger children and babies—and for hours not covered by the scheme.
 
The “free hours” are in term time only and are equivalent to just 11 hours when school holidays are included.
 
That means the Tories, instead of bringing down the cost of childcare, are driving up bills.
 
In some cases, fees have risen to as much as £1,500 a week, per place.
 
The policy will drive thousands of working class women out of work.
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