News Nov 28, 2023 02:45 AM EST

UK Doctors' Strike Threat Recedes as Government Agrees to Pay Rise

By April Fowell

Officials claimed Monday that the British government reached an agreement with leading physicians in England that might put an end to a string of disruptive strikes.

After weeks of negotiations, the Department of Health and Social Care stated it had submitted a salary offer to physicians' unions, and union officials agreed to put the proposal to a vote of their members.

UK Doctors' Strike Threat Recedes as Government Agrees to Pay Rise
(Photo : by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Officials claimed Monday that the British government reached an agreement with leading physicians in England that might put an end to a string of disruptive strikes.

The breakthrough, according to health experts, is a big relief, albeit the results of the union elections will not be known until January.

According to the British Medical Association, the government's offer means senior physicians would begin receiving more compensation next year, on top of a 6% salary rise previously granted for 2023-2024.

According to the physicians' union, the government is investing 4.95% more in senior doctor pay, albeit the amount each doctor will receive is determined on their contracts.

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Demands for Improved Pay and Working Conditions

Earlier this year, thousands of senior physicians went on strike for 48 hours to seek improved pay and working conditions from the government, causing huge disruptions in hospitals across England.

These strikes followed similar industrial actions by junior physicians, nurses, and other health workers who staged their own strikes to win salary hikes in the midst of the United Kingdom's skyrocketing inflation and cost-of-living problems.

Senior doctors claim that their income has dropped by one-third in actual terms over the last 14 years.

The new offer, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is a "fair deal" for senior physicians and will benefit patients.

This year's strike activities have added to the strain on Britain's under-funded and under-staffed National Health Service, causing more than 1 million hospital appointments to be rescheduled. According to health officials, the interruption cost the NHS 1.4 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) in missed cash and staff coverage.

The progress in wage discussions, according to NHS England CEO Amanda Pritchard, is encouraging news, especially considering demand for hospital treatment typically spikes in the winter.

Government authorities already negotiated compensation agreements with nurses and other health professionals, but they are still discussing salary with physicians in their early careers.

Because of the walkouts, over one million appointments and treatments, including some cancer care, have been postponed since December of last year.

Many health-care executives have pushed both sides to join negotiations, citing fears about the possibility of new strike action over the winter season.

The majority of specialized doctors work in hospitals with younger doctors and consultants, although some work in the community as well.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health expressed satisfaction that the BMA had agreed to engage in discussions regarding the dispute with junior doctors. The government is hopeful that these talks will lead to a resolution and bring an end to the ongoing conflict. Additionally, the spokesperson noted contentment with the BMA's decision to postpone the initiation of a formal ballot for specialist doctors, allowing for further dialogue.

Emphasizing the government's stance, the spokesperson clarified that headline pay would not be open for negotiation. It was reiterated that doctors had already received a fair and reasonable pay increase, as recommended by an independent pay review body, a decision fully accepted by the government. 

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