Doctors stage fourth strike over imposed contracts as government refuses to negotiate

All-out strike is second of three 48-hour walkouts by medical professionals

Junior doctors, who make up a third of all of Britain’s qualified doctors, have begun their fourth strike in the long-running dispute over the imposition of new contracts by the government.

The British Medical Association argues that the contract, which will be imposed from the summer, will compromise patient care.

Today’s strike is the fourth all-out strike, and the second of three 48-hour strikes that has seen doctors walk out in protest at the government’s contract changes.

While the strikes continue, doctors are continuing to provide the UK with emergency care, though an estimated 5,000 routine operations have been delayed.

The stalemate between the government and doctors means that the increasingly exasperated BMA, with the support of 98% of junior doctors balloted, plans the first ever walkouts from emergency care in the history of the NHS at the end of April.

The BMA said the government’s position on the contracts had left it with “no choice”, as the profession had “no confidence” in the government’s plans.

The government is refusing to reopen talks with the BMA, saying it made changes to its position in February.

Why are doctors striking?

Junior doctors make up a third of all of the UK’s doctors. After the cost of university fees for between five to six years of training, junior doctors currently have a starting salary of £22,636. This rises to £28,000 in the second year of working. Only those at consultant level are considered non-junior doctors, and many doctors spend their entire careers as “junior doctors” regardless of their experience.

Junior doctors are currently paid slightly more for working anti-social hours (currently classified as outside 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday) on top of the basic salary, but they also work massive amounts of overtime which largely goes unrecorded.

Doctors in the NHS are already understaffed and overworked, which has sent stress levels soaring. Combined with relatively low pay (compared to other countries) doctors training in the UK are increasingly choosing to work overseas where conditions are better.

The government’s forced contract changes are actively making life worse for doctors.

The new contract changes the anti-social hours to outside 07:00 to 22:00 Monday to Saturday, making Saturday between 07:00 and 22:00 part of a junior doctor’s normal working week.

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