By Emmanuel Nduka
Aggrieved hospital doctors in England on Wednesday began their longest consecutive strike in the 70-year history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
Junior doctors below consultant level started a six-day walkout, in a major escalation of their long-running pay dispute with the UK government.
The industrial action which follows a three-day strike held by doctors just before Christmas, comes at one of the busiest times of the year for the state-funded NHS, when it faces increased pressure from winter respiratory illnesses.
UK’s NHS said the latest stoppage, which could see up to half of the medical workforce on picket lines, would have “a significant impact on almost all routine care”.
“This January could be one of the most difficult starts to the year the NHS has ever faced,” Stephen Powis, its national medical director, said.
The strike is due to end at 0700 GMT next Tuesday.
The British Medical Association (BMA) announced the walkout in December after a breakdown in talks with the government, with the union stating that junior doctors have been offered a 3.0-percent rise on top of the average 8.8-percent increase they were given earlier this year.
The union rejected the offer because the cash would be split unevenly across different doctor grades and would “still amount to pay cuts for many doctors”.
Heritage Times HT reports that Junior doctors have gone on strike at least seven times since March.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and hospital leaders have criticised the action.
While the strike is on, Consultants will cover for junior doctors and emergency and urgent care such as maternity and intensive care services will be operating.