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UK doctors' strike
UK doctors strike still playing out in 2024

The UK doctors’ strike is showing no signs of resolution, a staggering 13 months after it began.

Junior doctors remain on the front line of the latest round of strikes after their most recent talks broke down in December 2023.

It continues the longest-running and most damaging industrial action in the NHS’s 75-year history.

And it maintains the burden on the health system while also embarrassing the government. 

The six-day strike across the first two weeks of the new year saw 113,779 patients have their appointments cancelled.

That number included 9228 elective surgeries.

It also forced the NHS, already riddled with funding gaps, backlogs and treatment delays, to rearrange more than 1.3 million appointments.

Even this mind-boggling figure is a “severe underestimate” according to NHS confederation hospitals group CEO Matthew Taylor.

He said, “Because trusts have pre-emptively avoided making appointments during periods of industrial action, the actual number of cancelled appointments could be double this”.

The total cost of the industrial action has now been estimated at £2 billion.

A deal with junior doctors remains the final piece of the puzzle for the UK government.

It came to agreement with senior doctors, nurses and ambulance crews late last year.

What junior doctors earn in the UK

Newly qualified doctors in the UK earn just £15.53/hour (A$29.90).

The minimum wage in the UK is £10/hour.

Campaigning in a picket line outside St Thomas’ hospital in central London, 28-year-old Dr Georgia Blackwell said the low pay rates and conditions were forcing young doctors to move abroad.

“A lot of doctors are moving to Australia — not just because of the pay, but also the work-life balance is better,” she said.

What junior doctors want

Junior doctors have now staged 10 strikes since March, 2023, clocking off for a total of 34 days.

They are demanding a 35% pay rise which they argue barely covers their fall in wages in real terms since 2008-09.

The British Medical Association (BMA) plans to ballot its members again soon.

It could see the UK doctors’ strike roll on until at least September.

The resolve among young doctors is steadfast.

In Wales, of the 65% of junior doctors who voted in the last ballot, 98% supported strike action.

They stood down from January 15-18 during a time Welsh NHS Confederation director Darren Hughes lamented was “one of the most pressurised weeks of the year, following recent weeks of significant winter pressures”.

He added: “Inevitably there will be a knock-on effect on the NHS’s capacity to perform the balancing act of winter pressures versus making inroads into the elective backlog.”

What the UK government is offering

The government has already awarded an average pay rise of 8.8% for the current financial year.

But its offer of a further 3% has been rejected by the BMA.

It claims junior doctors have suffered a fall in their real wages of 26.2% since 2008-09.

The BMA has urged Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to return to the table with a credible offer or it will ballot its members, encouraging further strikes.

In Wales, members have already been given a 5% rise by the Welsh government.

This is below the 6% recommended by an independent arbiter.

The situation differs in Scotland where an improved offer of 12.4% was accepted.

A ballot regarding strike action in Northern Ireland looms.

What both sides are saying

British health secretary Victoria Atkins said the demands of junior doctors are “not affordable for the taxpayer”.

She also outraged the group by referring to them as “doctors in training”.

“The last cohort is junior doctors – or doctors in training, as I prefer to call them – and they, sadly to my great disappointment, walked out of our negotiations and then called these strikes,” she said in December.

Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan conceded she understood the frustration of junior doctors.

But she claimed there was no more money to offer them.

“The only place we can go for more money is to cut it from other parts of the NHS and I’m not sure if the public would thank us for that,” she said.

Dr Oba Babs-Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey, co-chairs of BMA Cymru Wales’ junior doctors committee, responded with a joint statement.

It said: “No doctor wants to strike. We had hoped the Welsh government had properly understood the strength of feeling amongst junior doctors in Wales.

“Sadly, their inaction over this matter has led us here today, demoralised, frustrated and angry.

“After years of undervaluing our lifesaving service we feel we’ve been left with no choice but to stand up for the profession and say enough is enough, we cannot and will not accept the unacceptable anymore.”

When will the UK doctors strike be resolved?

Resolution to the UK doctors’ strike still seems quite a way off.

The government says it will not hold any more talks until junior doctors call off their strike action.

The BMA says it won’t negotiate until it receives a “credible” pay offer.

BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee co-chair Dr Vivek Trivedi said: “The notion that we’re hellbent on calling strikes and all we want to do is call strikes is not what we want.

“What we want is to negotiate an offer we can put to our members and for our members to accept it.”

Contact Health Recruitment today

Are you a doctor growing tired waiting for a fair deal in the UK?

Maybe you are even more fearful of what your future in medicine looks like in the UK.

Even when resolved, the UK doctors’ strike may be an ominous pointer to what lies ahead.

If you are starting to second-guess your career choice as it only just begins, it’s important to realise you do have choices.

One of the best ones you can make is to consider the greener pastures of Australia.

Australia is a land of immense opportunity where doctors enjoy the third-highest pay rates in the world.

They enjoy far superior working conditions to their UK counterparts.

And the best part?

There is a high demand for doctors to work in Australia right now.

That’s where Health Recruitment Australia can help.

HRA is a dedicated recruitment agency.

We specialise in matching overseas doctors of all ages with clinics needing doctors in Australia.

There are multiple opportunities available for doctors keen to make the move and enjoy everything living and working in Australia has to offer.

HRA will help you find you the right city, area, and practice to work in.

We’ll answer all of your questions to help put your mind at ease and make your move as seamless as possible.

We can even help with all that annoying paperwork!

Why not start with an informal, no-obligation discussion with the experienced team at Health Recruitment Australia? Contact us.

Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!


Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!