Junior doctors in England commenced a four-day strike on Friday morning, as part of their ongoing campaign for better pay and working conditions.
The strike, which is the fifth one organized by the British Medical Association (BMA) in England, will last until Tuesday morning and affect some NHS services throughout the day.
The BMA members also plan to hold a rally in central London on Friday afternoon.
The government has said that it has made a “final” offer to the junior doctors, which includes a 6% pay rise and a £1,250 bonus.
According to the government, this would mean an overall increase of 8.1% to 10.3%, depending on the previous salary of each doctor.
However, the BMA has rejected this offer, saying that it does not reflect the value of their work and that the government cannot end the negotiations without talking to the union directly.
The BMA’s main demand is to restore their pay to the level of 2008, which would require a 35% increase.
The strike follows a 48-hour walkout by senior doctors in England last month, who also protested against their pay and working conditions.
The NHS staff and the public have been complaining about the lack of staff, long waiting times and poor quality of care in the health service.
A long-standing dispute between the government and the health workers over pay, working conditions and funding of the NHS has led to a medical crisis and industrial actions in England.
Since 2010, the government has limited the pay rise of most public sector workers to 1%, which has resulted in a loss of their purchasing power.
The government has also implemented controversial changes to the NHS, such as the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which expanded the role of private providers and competition in the health service.
The health workers have claimed that the government has devalued their profession, jeopardised patient safety and quality of care, and endangered the NHS with privatisation.
The health workers have taken various forms of industrial action to voice their discontent and demand better pay and conditions.
The most visible group of health workers involved in the strikes are the junior doctors, who are doctors below consultant level undergoing training.
They have held five rounds of strikes since December 2022, ranging from 24 hours to 96 hours each time.
They are opposing a new contract imposed by the government, which they say will cut their pay, increase their working hours and worsen their work-life balance.
Other groups of health workers who have participated in the wave of strikes include senior doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance staff, radiographers, midwives and physiotherapists.
They have also asked for higher pay, better staffing levels, improved equipment and more funding for the NHS.
Some of them have also shown solidarity with the junior doctors and resisted the government’s reforms.
The strikes have disrupted the NHS services, with hundreds of thousands of appointments and operations cancelled or delayed.
The public opinion on the strikes is split. Some people support the health workers and empathise with their situation. They hold the government responsible for neglecting the NHS and disrespecting the health workers.
They also worry that the strikes are a sign of a deeper crisis in the NHS, which could lead to its breakdown or privatisation.
Others condemn the health workers for endangering patients and inconveniencing the public.
They call them greedy, selfish and reckless. They also doubt the validity and effectiveness of the strikes, as they have not brought any resolution or compromise.
The strikes have also created a political challenge for the government, which has faced widespread criticism and pressure from various stakeholders, such as opposition parties, trade unions, professional bodies, patient groups and media outlets.
The government has justified its policies and decisions, arguing that they are essential to ensure the viability and productivity of the NHS in the face of growing demand and costs.
The government has also accused the health workers of being stubborn, unrealistic and influenced by political motives.
The government has declined to reopen negotiations with the junior doctors or offer more concessions to other health workers.
The medical crisis and industrial actions in England are expected to persist in the near future, as there is no indication of a breakthrough or dialogue between the government and the health workers.
The situation could worsen further if more groups of health workers join or intensify their strikes, or if patients suffer serious harm or death as a consequence of the strikes.
The crisis could also have broader implications for the social and economic stability of England, as well as its reputation and influence in the world.