Hospital doctors in England staged the biggest walkout in the history of the NHS on Thursday 13 July. The strike action over pay and staff retention involves an unprecedented five-day stoppage. Moreover, this is the latest in eight months of industrial action across the NHS, which has been reeling from over a decade of Tory cuts. On a picket line outside London’s University College Hospital, junior doctor Arjan Singh said: The NHS has been running on goodwill and now this is the last chance to change that. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Singh described the demand of £20 per hour for junior doctors’ pay as “very reasonable.”
On 23 June, hospital doctors in England announced the longest strike in the 75-year history of the NHS. As ever, it’s part of the ongoing row over pay and working conditions. The British Medical Association (BMA) stated that Junior doctors – those below consultant level – will stage a walkout. They’ll start on 7:00 on July 13, and continue until the same time on July 18. The stoppage follows a 72-hour strike earlier this same month. It was in opposition to the government’s refusal to budge on its offer of just a 5% pay increase.
In England on May Day tens of thousands of nurses went on strike and walked out from their work at the NHS. In London alone there were over a dozen picket lines as anger, despair and the struggle for a better wage were shouted out on the streets. The government offered the nurses a 5% pay increase which some union members accepted. However, with the inflation continuing to rise in the UK this offer was turned down by many union members too. Nurses, who are highly skilled workers are burnt out and some are leaving the job for better wages. The striking nurses say the situation has gotten so bad within the NHS, that they are not only striking for better pay but for the safety of their patients.
Rishi Sunak’s government in the UK is on a mission to curb the wave of strikes by health workers which began at the end of 2022. In April, the majority of members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite the Union rejected Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s offer of a 5% salary increase and one-off payment, announcing they would continue striking for a better deal. Instead of reopening negotiations, the government took the RCN to court over what health workers have called a “technical discrepancy” over the organization’s strike mandate. The High Court ruled in favor of the government, shortening the strike originally scheduled to take place between April 30 and May 2 to less than 24 hours.
After decades of targeted underfunding, the UK’s National Health Service is on the verge of collapse. Spiking inflation as a result of corporate profiteering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine War have only worsened the situation, as the UK’s 300,000 nurses face staffing shortages on top of a cost of living crisis. All these conditions have driven the Royal College of Nurses to strike. This video is part of an ongoing Workers of the World series about the cost of living crisis in Europe. This story, with the support of the Bertha Foundation, is part of The Real News Network’s Workers of the World series, telling the stories of workers around the globe building collective power and redefining the future of work on their own terms.
In 1990, Helen O’Connor came over from Ireland to train as a nurse at Whittington Hospital in North London. ‘In those days, you had decent pay, subsidised canteens, and subsidised accommodation,’ she explains. It was a great career. You could move up the grades, earn money to get a mortgage and buy a house. If you got to sister level, which I did, you could have a really good life. Today, things look different. Fourteen percent of nurses rely on foodbanks, a third have difficulty covering food and heating costs, and three in four NHS Trusts say more nurses are visiting mental health services because of stress, debt, and poverty. As a result of all of this, nurses are leaving the profession in droves. Where did it all go wrong — and how do we put it right?
Over 130,000 NHS staff vacancies. 65% of junior doctors actively looking to quit, with 4 in 10 already having plans to do so. Record numbers waiting over 12 hours to be seen in A&E. Hundreds of avoidable deaths every week. The health service as we know it has arguably already collapsed. Anti-trade union legalisation is being quickly drawn up by rattled ministers in a desperate attempt to stifle our movement. This may be our final chance to turn the tide on this increasingly authoritarian government. But our workforce isn’t going down without a fight. Today marks the first day of balloting junior doctors for industrial action. Our demands are simple and modest: we are asking the government to reverse the pay cuts our profession has endured over the last decade and a half. We are not asking for a rise—just for pay to be restored to 2008 levels.
Anthony Johnson of Nurses United UK explains the reasons for the historic strike by nurses in December. He notes that the strike is not just about the cost of living crisis and pay hikes but also about saving the NHS from privatization. He explains how over the decades, successive governments have shrunk the health service, leading to poor working conditions and staff vacancies. He also talks about the impact of the wrecking of the NHS on the British people and health professionals in other parts of the world.
Imagine a disability almost disappearing if you flew out of the Global South. I have severe haemophilia, a genetic condition that interferes with the body’s ability to clot after bleeding. When left untreated, anything — even a bruise or merely sitting down — can trigger a bleed, internally or externally. Anti-clotting injections can stop this. However, outside the advanced West, these injections are sold at exorbitantly high prices. When I was a child in India, my parents couldn’t afford such treatment, so they’d bury my bleeding joints under piles of ice to freeze them. Almost all the bleeds I experienced in India were left untreated, resulting in permanent damage to my joints and internal organs. In the U.K., the NHS home-delivers me these injections twice a month. This global medical apartheid is created and perpetuated by pharmaceutical monopolies.
Health workers’ unions in the UK are gearing up for massive protests, including strike action, to assert the demand for decent wages and more recruitment and resources for the National Health Service (NHS). The UNISON union is currently balloting its members in England, Wales and Northern Island to determine if industrial action should be taken. Meanwhile, on November 9, the nurses’ union of Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced plans to initiate strike action before Christmas at many big hospitals and several other NHS care facilities. The RCN union decided to go on strike after the Tory government refused to meet their demand for a pay rise between 4.5% to 5% to meet the soaring inflation, which currently stands at 10.1%. Junior doctors affiliated to the British Medical Association (BMA) are also gearing up for a strike ballot in January to protest overwork and underpayment.
The British National Health Service (NHS) once stood as an internationally renowned example of a tax-funded health system that delivered public-health services to millions of British citizens, lifting a huge burden from the sick. However, the rise of neoliberal policies in the United Kingdom has targeted the NHS to become the latest victim of a U.S.-U.K. economic trade deal that would put health care services in the hands of private U.S. corporations. This means that private U.S. healthcare corporations would capitalize on the taxpayer funded budget, “creating private insurance-style funding pools” similar to how healthcare is conducted in the U.S. In this segment of The Watchdog, host Lowkey is joined by Bob Gill — family doctor, NHS campaigner and director of the film The Great NHS Heist.