Junior doctors in Oxford are taking a stand against the state of the NHS by launching a 72-hour strike. The strike, organised by the British Medical Association (BMA), highlights junior doctors’ concerns over the state of the NHS, their wages, staffing, and morale. As the strike has commenced, some hospitals are reporting record high numbers of patients, as a result of the heatwave.
Junior doctors voice their frustrations with poor pay, as well as with the lack of support they feel from the two major political parties. BMA representative Dr Matt Bilton explained that “pay for doctors has failed to keep up with inflation pretty much every single year” for the past 15 years, resulting in doctors being paid “approximately 30% less in real terms than they were in 2008.” The Labour party responded to this by claiming they would double the number of medical school places to 15,000 a year, while the Conservatives responded by offering 5% “pocket change”, according to Bilton. Neither of these actions tackle the root of the issue, further frustrating doctors and staff. ‘Fix the leaky bucket by pouring more water in,’ Bilton said.
Audrey Davies, a junior doctor, explained that the conditions in the NHS are making it extremely difficult to continue. She detailed how infrastructure failures such as heating or ventilation systems breaking has affected operation schedules and have lead to whole days of operations being cancelled. On top of these failures, the hospitals are understaffed and experiencing exacerbated stress due to increasing patient numbers. She explained that, while they want to do better, they are unable to because resources and staff are not there.
Another junior doctor added that working in the NHS was “like fighting a fire with a bucket of water”, explaining how the conditions for patients and hospital staff are at an all-time low. “Corridor medicine” is becoming more common, being discussed at nursing conferences as a response to increased patient numbers. Ashok Chhabra, a junior doctor who has worked in the NHS since he was 18, outlined more difficulties staff in the NHS are facing. Chhabra explained that, since Covid, morale has decreased; “there’s no social environment” and “nobody’s happy to be there any more.”
The strike is a portrayal of the various frustrations with the NHS and is a call to action for better treatment. It represents an important turning point for the future and success of the NHS and their staff members.