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British public doctors begin talks after almost a year of strikes




British public doctors begin talks after almost a year of strikes

After almost a year of industrial action, junior doctors in the English healthcare system have started mediated talks with the government.

It is hoped that the end is in sight to a series of disputes that have cost billions of pounds and delayed millions of hospital appointments.

Several key groups of UK National Health Service workers have been on periodic strikes since December 2022. The English trainee doctors started walking away in July 2023.

They are qualified physicians and surgeons with up to eight years of hospital experience and are approximately equivalent to interns and residents in the US.

While the action by nurses, paramedics, senior doctors and other groups has largely ended, these doctors left in February and voted in March to continue strike action for another six months.

Previous talks with the government – ​​which decides pay levels for NHS workers – collapsed in December.

Doctors’ union British Medical Association says an external mediator will facilitate the new round of negotiations, which are expected to last about a month. to the BBC.

The co-chairs of the junior physician committee, Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi, said in a statement that they have been “exploring various avenues” for more than a year to try to solve “declining junior physician salaries.”

“We have been looking at ways to restore trust between parties and believe that an independent mediator could help break the impasse,” they said. in a statement. “We hope to reach a credible solution as soon as possible”

Junior doctors in other parts of Britain are involved in their own industrial action. Staff in Wales are currently negotiating with ministers, while those in Northern Ireland will be away for two days next week.

Why are NHS staff on strike?

Employees from across the healthcare system have been on the streets for more than 16 months in an effort to secure better wages and working conditions.

They claim their compensation has not kept pace with inflation, leaving them underpaid during a number of years that have been extremely stressful for the NHS.

The country’s public health system faces large waiting lists for planned care and high demand for emergency care.

A lack of social care capacity makes it difficult for hospitals to discharge vulnerable patients, leaving many languishing in hospital beds. This slows the flow through hospitals, contributing to overcrowding in emergency departments and lengthy transfer delays as ambulances wait for space to become available for new patients.

It’s a complex problem with no clear solution – and striking workers warn they are needed more than ever to keep patients safe in busy hospitals.

Demand for already overloaded services is expected to increase as the population ages. Unions argue that raising wages is crucial to attract and retain a healthy workforce.

But ministers say their demands are unaffordable. For example, junior doctors asked for a 35% pay increase. They say this will help offset years of below-inflation wage growth.

Last year, the government gave an average increase of just under 9%, according to the BBC.

British Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said she wanted to “pursue all options to resolve the dispute with the BMA junior doctors committee.”

“This will ensure they can focus on delivering the highest quality care and consolidate our recent progress on waiting lists,” she added in a statement.

“I am pleased that the BMA has agreed to explore mediation and I am hopeful that this will provide a way forward.”