A private contractor walks down a ward at the ExCel centre which has temporarily been transformed into the NHS Nightingale hospital, in London, Monday, March 30, 2020. The makeshift hospital comprises of two wards with the capacity to hold up to 2,000 people in each - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.06.2022SubscribeUSIndiaGlobalEkaterina BlinovaAll materialsWrite to the authorBritain’s National Health Service (NHS) staff are likely to follow in the footsteps of UK barristers and railway workers who opted for industrial action over the cost of living crisis and soaring inflation. Delegates at the annual British Medical Association (BMA) conference instructed the union to achieve a 30% pay rise within the next five years.”We want to save lives, we want to deliver good healthcare,” says Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at The University of Exeter Medical School, who is attending the BMA conference at the moment. “The difficulty is that we’ve had a decade of cuts in healthcare, even more than a decade. So, [there has been] more than a decade of cuts, as well as sickness, ill health and pressures of COVID. COVID plus healthcare cuts have made the matter a lot worse.”NHS unionists argue that a 30 percent pay rise is by no means excessive as British medics have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 30 percent since 2008, according to The i, a UK newspaper. BMA conference members say that the fall represents “career earnings loss amounting to millions of pounds” to each doctor.The BMA is not the only healthcare union demanding government action over long-overdue pay rises. The Royal College of Nursing is seeking a 14 percent pay rise, and Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions which represents 500,000 NHS and social care workers, is warning of industrial action unless the government brings the public sector’s salaries in line with rocketing inflation, according to the Daily Mail.Demonstrators hold placards as they attend a protest, outside the gates of Downing Street, against the increase of the cost of living, in London, Saturday, April 2, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.06.2022UK’s Teaching, NHS Unions Threaten Strikes Unless They Get Pay Rise More In Line With Inflation

Chronic Underinvestment & Lack of Staff

The UK healthcare has long been suffering from underinvestment and lack of staff which in turn has created an unbearable burden for NHS workers, according to Pankhania.

"There are just not enough clinicians and clinical time to do the job," he says. "And because there is a lot of pressure in the job, a lot of doctors decide to take early retirement; they give up. Although there is a problem, the problem is getting worse because people are saying: 'Well, I'm fed up, I can't do it, I can't cope, I cannot manage'."

The latest NHS data indicates there was a shortage of 8,000 doctors in England as of March this year. He notes that there has been a slow loss of workforce because of a series of meaningless reorganizations over the past decades. “And that’s a lot of wasted money in a reorganization upon reorganization,” the academic remarks.In addition to that, the COVID pandemic claimed many healthcare specialists’ lives since they were not adequately protected, according to the senior lecturer.People walk past a mural praising the NHS (National Health Service) amidst the continuation of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, London, Britain, March 5, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.07.2021NHS Stretching Thin Trying to Cope With Rising Infections and UK Gov’t Isn’t Making Things EasierThen there is another problem: The NHS faces the loss of thousands of highly experienced senior doctors because pension scheme rules may force them to retire, the BMA warned in April. They could end up losing tens of thousands of pounds in pension benefits if they work beyond 60.”If you are a senior doctor and your lifetime earnings allowance has been exceeded, you face a tax bill,” says Pankhania. “The tax bill is quite large. And therefore you say: ‘I cannot go to work when I’m better off not going to work’.”

Does the Johnson Government Care About the Wellbeing of Britons?

So far the Tory government has ruled out meeting the demands of healthcare unions on pay rises, insisting that considerable salary hikes would accelerate Britain’s inflation that hit a new 40-year high of 9.1 percent in the 12 months to May, according to the Office for National Statistics. The Treasury has only offered a 3 percent rise for public sector workers, which is much lower than the present inflation rate.

"We have a government that is not listening and it is not responsive until their back is to the wall," argues Pankhania. "The government has a huge majority. The government has a lot of issues. One way for the government to deflect from its own internal problems is to have distractions such as 'the stupid doctors are asking for a 30 percent pay rise'. The doctors want to strike. The barristers want to strike. Rail workers want to strike. I do not expect the government to say, 'Oh, let us look at this seriously', because it is in their interests not to do so."

The question then arises whether the incumbent British government really cares about the health and wellbeing of the nation, even though a healthy nation would be more vibrant economically, the senior lecturer highlights.The road sign of Downing Street seen behind a placard reading 'Tories out', during a protest against the increase of the cost of living, in London, Saturday, April 2, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.06.2022UK’s Tory Government Faces Social Collapse, Having No-One But Itself to Blame

"Unfortunately, the ideology of the current government is not conducive to making the NHS better despite all their lies – that there would be extra money for the NHS if we left the European Union," he says. "This government is not interested in investing genuinely in the National Health Service. It is fragmenting it. It is making it privatized in a drip, drip, drip way, and therefore it haemorrhages money and resources. Every profit that a private enterprise makes is a profit lost to the NHS."

A wave of strikes which the media has dubbed the ‘Summer of Discontent’ has engulfed Britain in June with railway workers walking out last week in an action dubbed the worst since the Seventies. Criminal law barristers took to the streets on 27 June demanding a 15 percent pay rise, and teachers’ unions and the civil service are also being balloted on possible industrial action. Doctors and nurses might follow suit.

Sourse: sputniknews.com

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