NHS staff across ELL boroughs take part in 72-hour strike action

BMA members outside Royal London Hospital on Wednesday Pic: Ray Bonsall

NHS workers across ELL boroughs have taken part in a third day of strikes as part of a 72 hour nationwide industrial action against working and pay conditions.

The strikes which have run from 2 to 5 October have seen junior doctors and consultants coordinate action alongside dental trainees, radiographers, nurses, cleaners and porters from The British Medical Association (BMA), Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA), British Dental Association (BDA) and Unite the Union.

The BMA is calling for a ‘pay restoration’ to reverse what they say is a 26% pay cut in real terms (RPI) since 2008 due to inflation. In July, the government offered junior doctors a pay increase equivalent to an average of 8.8% for 2023/4. The BMA has said that a 35.3% increase would be required to restore pay.

Kambiz Boomla, a retired GP from Tower Hamlets told ELL: “We see doctors and nurses leave so soon after qualifying because their pay hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of living and they’re falling behind. Doctors can get far better money if they move to Australia or New Zealand or Canada”.

Train drivers were also on the picket line in Tower Hamlets alongside medics. Onay Kasab, National Lead Officer at Unite told ELL: “We’ve got a joint cause, not just with the BMA, but with the rail workers as well, for fairness, decency, and respect for all public service workers. It’s about paying conditions, but it’s also about saving the NHS and that’s why one of the ballot issues is safe staffing ratios.”

“So here we have the lowest paid workers in the NHS, cleaners, hospital porters, cooks, and standing in solidarity with doctors and nurses, consultants and juniors, soon to be joined by rail workers and university college lecturers all standing together in solidarity with each other in this cost-of-living crisis because they all see services crumbling”.

Onay Kasab, Unite the Union, on union solidarity during NHS worker strikes Video: Ray Bonsall

Unions have said that staffing levels during the strikes will be in line with those provided on Christmas day. Due to the coordinated industrial action, consultants will not be available to fill in for junior doctors to maintain regular staffing levels. This week, NHS England bosses wrote to BMA to warn them of the ‘cumulative’ impact of strikes on health services.

In the most strongly worded statement yet, the NHS England said: “We are now entering the eleventh month of industrial action across the NHS and staff continue to work hard to provide patients with the best possible care under the circumstances. Industrial action has impacted over a million hospital appointments across the NHS.

Previous round of industrial action by consultants and junior doctors in September saw over 120,000 hospital appointments disrupted and around between 8,000 and 26,000 staff off per day due to industrial action.”

NHS workers stand in solidarity outside Royal London Hospital, Tower Hamlets Pic: Ray Bonsall

Lizzie Hobbs, a paediatric registrar who has worked in the NHS for 14 years told ELL: “Doctors are fed up with the pay cuts that we’ve had in real terms and the conditions that we’re facing. We feel that the government doesn’t care about the NHS and is happy to watch it go down the drain. We want to stand up mainly for the patients, but in order to have good patient care you need to have doctors that are happy in jobs that they feel they are well paid for and well valued.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay has said: “My door is always open to discuss how we can work together with NHS staff to improve their working lives, but this pay award is final, so I urge the BMA to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption.”

The NHS has urged all patients to continue to seek emergency care during periods of industrial action. The NHS also advises that patients should attend appointments as planned unless informed of a rescheduling due to the strikes.

Leave a Reply