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The Junior Doctor Strikes and Government Resistance. Where lies the blame?

junior doctors striking with placards outside hospital

BMA rejected the offer tabled of an additional 3% given on top of the 8% already offered in the summer of 2023. This offer was labelled as “insulting” by the BMA and revealed that the Government has no regard for the pay of doctors. Rishi Sunak and his government have once again failed to deliver the promises made since he took charge of the country. They stick with their narrative of pinning the blame on the junior doctors, for the shortcomings and disruptions of the NHS. While distracting the general public from the root cause of the problem. Interestingly, Rishi Sunak also made a baseless claim in an interview, where he stated that other groups like the “consultants and specialty doctors have accepted a fair and reasonable offer by the government”. Since these statements, the Prime Minister has been heavily criticised for his lack of fact-checking by the BMA. The BMA has clarified that both groups of doctors are still balloting to agree in accepting or declining the offer made by the ministers. 

Since the start of these strikes over 10 months ago, Junior doctors have walked out for 34 days in total. However, the long and hard year ended with a stalemate and triggered another session of walkouts. The NHS has since lost about £2bn in funds and has had to cancel and reschedule several appointments and operations, which would take weeks or even months to recover from. Furthermore, around 113,739 appointments have been postponed and the true number of appointments may be higher. This ongoing dispute has immensely worried the NHS leaders, who also pleaded with the junior doctors and the government to reach an agreement as soon as possible. The government has employed its distraction techniques, with the Prime Minister taking credit for hiring 50,000 nurses in the last year but failing to mention that over 42,000 nurses had left the NHS, hence why there were so many vacancies in the first place. These deflection tactics and pinning the blame on the junior doctors for NHS shortcomings will not work until a “full pay restoration” is received by the BMA. Unsurprisingly, the government may play down the numbers of cancellations to appointments, with some reports stating that there are over 1.3 million appointments cancelled since the strikes began, the real number may be even higher as trusts are pre-emptively not scheduling appointments on strike days. The impact on the general public due to these strikes is dangerously high. 

In the meantime, while the government has not offered a reasonable offer, the real burden is felt by the general public and by extension by the doctors themselves. Junior doctors also understand what a burden these strikes play on their colleagues like the senior doctors and other healthcare staff in trying to manage the NHS in their absence. The longer the government takes to produce a meaningful offer everyone involved suffers including the junior doctors. While the BMA is negotiating with Health Secretary Vitoria Atkins in parallel another ballot is being conducted to decide whether strikes will continue until September, if once again an agreement is not reached. 

The consensus among doctors is that the strikes have gone on long enough and many are reluctant to continue striking. However, the matter of their livelihood takes precedence over the morality of the situation as many doctors still struggle to make ends meet. The costs of living and expenses such as student loans are piling up while doctors are taking less and less money home. Undoubtedly, working in high-pressure environments deserves much better compensation than the one currently on offer. Therefore, the Junior doctors are well within their rights to exercise industrial action and it is the government’s responsibility to look after the welfare of the healthcare system including its employees. 

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