Junior doctors vote to strike in UK

19th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Junior doctors in Britain voted Thursday to stage their first "all-out" strikes in the history of the National Health Service (NHS) in a fierce pay row with the government.

Almost 28,000 junior doctors cast their vote, with 98 percent in favour of strikes and two percent against, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.

They will conduct a 24-hour strike on December 1, providing only emergency care.

But there will be full walkouts between 8.00am and 5.00pm on December 8 and December 16, threatening mass disruption to the NHS and the cancellation of outpatient clinics and non-urgent operations.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called the action "totally unwarranted" but unions backed the walkouts.

Ron Singer, of the Medical Practitioners' Union, said: "The overwhelming vote of junior doctors to take strike action is a failure of the government's treatment of another part of the NHS workforce which it fails to value.

"The last time junior doctors were driven to take drastic action was 1975, so doctors do not take such decisions lightly nor without due cause."

In that year, junior doctors staged mass strike action, but still provided emergency care.

Patient groups warned that lives could be put at risk.

"This is the worst news for patients in the history of the NHS," said Roger Goss, of the campaign group Patient Concern.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "Whilst the views of doctors must be heard, the potential consequences of this strike for patients are severe".

The doctors are angry about new contracts to be implemented next year, which will see a cut in the number of shifts classed as "unsociable" and paid at the premium rate.

In lieu, the government has offered an 11-percent wage hike on normal shifts, but doctors maintain they will still lose out.

Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "Junior doctors deserve a deal that is fair and reflects their dedication."

"In particular, we would again highlight the need for NHS employers to recognise that acute medicine is a 24-hour service and the contract for junior doctors... must reflect this."

Junior doctors are qualified medical practitioners who are working while studying for postgraduate qualifications to become consultants or general practitioners.

They make up around half of the medical workforce in Britain.

© 2015 AFP

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