Young doctors launch three-day strike ahead of major week of strikes

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 9TH: Striking members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists attend their picket line at the Royal London Hospital on February 9th, 2023 in London, England. 4,200 CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapists) members across 30 NHS trusts in England and Wales will today fight a second day of strike over pay and working conditions. (Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

Thousands of doctors are expected to take part in strikes over the next week (Image: Getty)

Young doctors will begin a three-day strike today after it was revealed they could make more money serving coffee than saving lives.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) in England will picket outside hospitals across the country in the longest strike period by any young doctor.

The BMA launched an advertising campaign stating that young doctors could make more money by “serving coffee than saving patients”.

Members of several unions will go on strike on Budget Day (Wednesday), in what will be one of the biggest single industrial action days in years.

Workers taking action include civil servants, teachers, university staff, London Tube drivers and BBC journalists.

Rallies and demonstrations are taking place across the country, including a large protest in Westminster.

Public sector unions have criticized the government for its handling of wage disputes that have been escalating for months.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock (13756270y) Nurses are seen picketing outside St Thomas' Hospital as tens of thousands of nurses and ambulances strike over pay and conditions in the biggest strike action in NHS history. Nurses and Ambulances walk on Strkie in the UK, London, England, UK - 06 Feb 2023

It came after months of strikes across the UK (Credit Image: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock)

Progress has been made in Wales and Scotland after negotiations with ministers, but unions say the Westminster government is taking a completely different approach.

The BMA said newly qualified medics earn £14.09 an hour, less than a barista in a cafe, adding that young doctors in England have suffered a 26% cut in their pay in real terms since 2008/09.

An advertising campaign launched by the union reads: “Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 an hour.

A resident earns just £14.09. Thanks to this government, you can serve more coffee than save patients. This week junior doctors will strike to be paid what they are worth.’

Workers picket outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton during a strike by nurses and ambulances. Picture date: Monday February 6, 2023. PA Photo. Nurses in England who are members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are on strike along with ambulance workers from GMB and Unite. See PA story INDUSTRY Strikes. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Junior doctors on strike from today (Image: PA)

dr Becky Bates, a first-year resident in the Midlands, said: “I thought as a doctor I would be able to achieve financial independence, but instead I’m still completely dependent on others.

“Using tuition loans, credit cards and personal loans, I left medical school with over £100,000 in debt and now my salary isn’t even enough to fix my car if something goes wrong.

“I come from a single-parent family. I don’t come from money, but at 28 I’m relying on my mom to take on credit card debt to help me cover those expenses. It’s humiliating for me and it’s not fair to her.

“As a resident, I can be responsible for 400+ patients overnight – assessing them, prescribing medication, having really difficult conversations with families about end-of-life care and being the first point of contact when something goes horribly wrong. Yet our abilities and responsibilities are completely devalued.

“My situation is far from unique and as such, I and the overwhelming majority of my colleagues have been forced to go on the picket line this week.”

dr Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said: “Is £14.09 an hour really worth all junior doctors? These are people who can provide life-saving care, have undergone intensive training in medical school and are in debt worth around £100,000 in the process.

“We are fully in favor of every worker getting a pay rise in line with inflation, and it is worth reflecting that the government has slashed the salaries of junior doctors so severely that they could earn more serving coffee.

“Is it surprising that young doctors are looking for jobs abroad or in other fields when the government tells them they are worth more than a quarter less than they were in 2008?

“Losing such valuable clinicians to other countries and professions when waiting lists reach record highs means patients will suffer even more than they already are.

“That’s why the doctors are on strike. We fight for the restoration of our wages. We fight to restore our value. We are fighting to restore our workforce to get the NHS back to being an effective healthcare system.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay arrives for a cabinet meeting at Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday January 31, 2023. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he was “incredibly disappointed” that unions would not take part in wage negotiations (Image: PA)

Health and Welfare Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is incredibly disappointing that the British Medical Association (BMA) has turned down my offer to enter into formal salary negotiations as the strikes are suspended.

“I appreciate the hard work of junior doctors and call on unions to come to the negotiating table and call off strikes that are jeopardizing patient safety and hampering efforts to tackle the backlog. I want to find a fair solution that recognizes the crucial role of junior doctors and the wider economic pressures the UK is facing.

“I have had constructive and meaningful talks with unions representing nurses, paramedics and other non-medical workers who have agreed to halt strike action and negotiations continue this week.

“We have been working closely with NHS England on contingency plans to protect patient safety during strikes, prioritizing emergency, emergency and critical care – but there will inevitably be disruption to patients.”

NHS leaders said they were very concerned the young doctors’ strike would take the disruption caused by the recent strikes to the next level, pose a risk to patient safety and set back work to reduce the supply backlog.

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Justin Scacco

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