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British doctors on a 24-hour strike: Demands better pay and working hours

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January 17
3:33 AM 2016

For the first time in 40 years, England's National Health Service (NHS) saw a 24-hour industrial strike by its junior doctors. Around 40,000 doctors were seen protesting round the clock on January 12 when negotiations between British Medical Association and the government over better pay and working conditions fell through.

According to The Telegraph, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated on social media "Basic pay would rise by 11 per cent, with three quarters of juniors seeing a rise in pay, and almost all others having their pay "protected" until 2019."

The junior doctors were already working on weekends and manning the night shifts. But premium rates were attached to the hours 7:00pm to 7:00am on weekdays, along with the whole of weekend. Hunt's seven-day proposal would no doubt elevate their basics by 11% but would slash the premium rates attached to night and weekend hours. The outrage took place when the announcement revealed that the new deal was not per their requests. The junior doctors did not feel 'valued' as they felt the government arrived at a decision without discussing the concerns in detail.

One more reason of their anger lies in the fact that the junior doctors feel that they are lagging behind in terms of pay and security already, since they spend an additional five to six years of studying as compared to their contemporaries in other professions.  

A hospital's support system is formed by its junior staff, and because of this unrest, the NHS had to reschedule and move around 4000 operating schedules and call all their senior doctors on duty to cover for lack of doctors.

Apparently, the 24-hour walk-out is to be followed by two more - one on January 28 and the other on February 10, the latter being a complete abandonment of hospital services, including the emergency care services. The doctors did not want to take their protests this far, but were apparently left with little option.

"We want to provide the best care we can for patients but the new contracts won't let us do that. Jeremy Hunt wants to provide a seven-day routine service and spread an already overstretched workforce further. He hasn't provided any explanation as to where the extra resources are going to come from to make that happen," said a first-year doctor Ben Porter, according to Financial Times.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Councilor for Brookvale and Kings Furlong, Jack Cousens showed his support for the doctors when he said "We hope this action causes the Government to rethink their actions, treat junior doctors fairly and negotiate a safe a fair deal", as stated by the Gazette.

Even though no outcome has followed the walk-out on January 12, it seems the solution lies in both parties coming half way to strike a mutually beneficial deal.

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