Demonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest by junior doctors, amid a dispute with the government over pay, outside of Saint Thomas Hospital, in London, on March 13, 2023InternationalIndiaAfricaOleg BurunovOver the past few months, tens of thousands of British nurses and ambulance service staff have walked off the job as part of their long-running pay dispute with NHS bosses. NHS England National Medical Director Stephen Powis has warned of “unparalleled levels of disruption” due to next week’s junior doctors’ strike demanding higher pay, which is set to last at least four days.In a statement on Sunday, Powis said that the National Health Service is “very concerned about the potential severity of [the strike’s] impact on patients and services across the country.””This time the action immediately follows a four-day bank holiday weekend, which is already difficult as many staff are taking much-needed holiday, and it will be more extensive than ever before with hospitals facing nearly 100 hours without up to half of the NHS medical workforce,” he added.Powis was echoed by Layla McCay, a policy director at the NHS Confederation, who told a UK broadcaster that “in the last junior doctors’ strike we saw about 175,000 appointments and operations having to be postponed.”
"In terms of the disruption that we're anticipating this time, we reckon it could be up to about a quarter of a million, so that is a huge amount of impact for patients up and down the country," McCay pointed out.
She referred to “health leaders across the whole system,” who she said “are more concerned about this than they have been about any other strike.” The NHS Confederation official noted that “they think that the impact is going to be so significant that this one is likely to have impact on patient safety, and that is a huge concern for every healthcare leader.”McCay argued that the disruption could last up to 10 or 11 days, with the strike running between the Easter bank holiday and another weekend. “What we expect to see is really significantly diminished capacity within the health service with these junior doctors being out,” she noted.
This comes as the British Medical Association (BMA), the trade union for doctors and medical students in the UK, previously demanded a 35% pay increase. In Thursday’s letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, the union made it clear that the strikes could be avoided if the government makes a "credible" pay offer.
Mike Greenhalgh, a deputy chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, told a UK news network that “it’s hard to negotiate when only one side is doing it, and we’re not getting anything back from the government.”“We’re happy to meet at any time. We would still meet him [Barclay] over the bank holiday weekend before the industrial action next week. And if he was to bring a credible offer to us, it could still, even at this late stage, avert action.”The Department of Health and Social Care, in turn, insisted that the BMA should call off the strike for any negotiations to take place.WorldUK Cancels Thousands of Hospital Appointments Due to Junior Doctors’ Strike, British Media Reports13 March, 18:09 GMTFor many months, the NHS has suffered from a severe shortage of healthcare workers, with more people leaving the profession amid excessive workloads, rising prices and a lack of opportunities to upgrade their skills.Tens of thousands of UK ambulance workers have repeatedly staged protests, demanding higher wages amid surging inflation in the country. The British government has formally asked for help from the military to keep medical facilities running during the strikes. Other health care workers, including nurses, physical rehabilitation specialists, paramedics and their assistants also joined the strikes.