Britain’s junior doctors prepare to strike over pay, burnout

Britain’s junior doctors prepare to strike over pay, burnout

Written by Farooq Suleman, Natalie Thomas and Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) – Fed up with a government he says doesn’t care, Poh Wong plans to go on strike next week with tens of thousands of other British junior doctors, saying he is overworked, underpaid and burdened with a student loan. which he cannot do. Imagine paying off.

The 28-year-old said he and his colleagues had been hit with below-inflation pay rises, pushed to clash with the rising cost of living, leaving him questioning how he would pay his £85,000 ($101,000)-plus student fees. loan

Above all, he resented his treatment during the pandemic, when he felt powerless to fight the onslaught of patients arriving at hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms — saying public displays of support didn’t pay the bills.

He joins junior doctors across England who will go on strike for three days on March 13, protesting pay and burnout that risk driving staff out of the health service as it tackles record-high patient waiting lists.

“We’ve reached a boiling point where we’ve had enough,” said Wang, a council member of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors and medical students.

“The anger is palpable that we have been used and abused and underestimated to this extent.”

The son of Chinese immigrants who ran a takeaway restaurant in Chester, northern England, Wang became a doctor because he loved helping people. After attending medical school for six years, he worked as a psychiatrist for five, two in specialty training.

Junior doctors are qualified doctors, often with several years of experience, who work under the guidance of senior doctors and represent a large part of the country’s medical community.

He is paid around £40,000 a year for his base 40 hours a week and overtime work which can add up to around 48 hours a week. He rents a room in a shared flat in west London, an option that can cost around £1,000 a month.

‘Above and Beyond’

At the start of the pandemic, Wang worked as an emergency medicine doctor in south London where he and colleagues had to make difficult decisions and comfort patients who could not be admitted to intensive care units because they were full.

“We went above and beyond to do everything we could,” he said.

Food inflation in Britain has hit 17%, making him and his colleagues increasingly bitter over the past few years.

“We hate the sound of clapping, clapping, because it’s empty,” Wang said, referring to Britain’s Clap for Our Care campaign for health workers at the height of the pandemic.

“If you value us and what we’ve done and the sacrifices we’ve made, then pay us appropriately.”

The BMA says take-home pay for junior doctors has fallen by more than a quarter over the past 15 years, while the Retail Price Index (RPI) uses a gauge of inflation.

It said its members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike.

The walkout by junior doctors will put further pressure on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), which is facing a wave of strikes by nurses, ambulance workers and other workers.

Daniel Zahedi, 27, is another junior doctor who plans to go on strike on Monday He described his hospital in Cambridge, eastern England, as chronically understaffed and struggling.

“A lot of times we don’t have enough,” Zahedi said.

As a first-year doctor after a medical degree, Zahedi said he earns about £29,000 a year as base pay for a minimum of 40 hours a week. He said he worked about 60 hours this week, which is slightly above average but “not unusual”. His student loan debt stands at nearly £100,000.

“It’s not just 100 grand as a student, you have to pay for your membership of the Royal College, you have to pay for exams, even to progress in your career,” he said.

As things stand, Zahedi said, despite his love for the job, he doesn’t see himself staying in the profession long-term.

“People are burning out left, right and center — where pay is going down year after year, where conditions are getting worse, where patient care is suffering,” he said.

“They’re feeling undervalued and people are leaving.”

In January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined the need to cut hospital waiting times as one of his government’s five priorities.

Battling strikes across multiple sectors, including train drivers and teachers, the government says public sector pay restraint is needed to curb double-digit inflation.

($1 = 0.8389 pounds)

(Writing by Farooq Suleman; Editing by Kate Holton and Janet Lawrence)

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