March 29, 2023

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Junior doctors in Britain prepare to strike over pay, burnout

  • Junior Doctors come out with 72 hours of pay
  • Exhaustion and the conditions that lead junior doctors to quit
  • The British Health Service has a record backlog
  • Junior doctors are saddled with student debt

LONDON (Reuters) – Fed up with a government he says doesn’t care, Poh Wang plans to go on strike with tens of thousands of junior British doctors next week, saying he is overworked, underpaid and burdening a student. A loan that can’t be repaid.

The 28-year-old says he and his colleagues were pushed to the brink after below-inflationary wage increases collided with a rising cost of living, leaving him wondering how he could repay more than £85,000 ($101,000) for a student. religion.

Moreover, he remains angry about his treatment during the pandemic, when he felt powerless to deal with the onslaught of patients arriving at the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms — saying public offers of support didn’t pay the bills.

He joins junior doctors across England who will go on strike on 13 March for three days, protesting over wages and overwork that risks driving staff out of the health service while he deals with record-setting patient waiting lists.

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“We’ve reached a boiling point where we’ve had enough,” said Wang – a council member of the British Medical Association (BMA) which represents doctors and medical students.

“The anger is palpable that we have been used, mistreated and devalued to such an extent.”

Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants who ran a takeaway restaurant in Chester, northern England, became a doctor because he enjoyed helping people. After attending medical school for six years, he worked for five years, two of them in specialized training as a psychiatrist.

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Junior physicians are qualified physicians, often with several years of experience, who work under the supervision of senior physicians and represent a large portion of the nation’s medical community.

He gets paid about 40,000 pounds a year for a 40-hour week, and works overtime, which can amount to about 48 hours a week. He rents a room in a shared flat in west London, an option that can cost around £1,000 a month.

“above and beyond”

Early in the pandemic, Wang worked as an emergency medicine doctor in south London where he and his colleagues had to make tough decisions, comforting those patients who couldn’t be admitted to intensive care units because they were full.

“We went above and beyond to do everything we could,” he said.

He said the fact that he was struggling to make ends meet now, with food inflation at 17% in Britain, was making him and his colleagues increasingly bitter about the past few years.

“We hate the sound of applause, the applause, because it’s empty,” Wang said, referring to Britain’s “Clap for Carers” campaign for health workers during the height of the pandemic.

“If you value us and what we’ve been through and in terms of the sacrifices we’ve made, then you should pay us right.”

The Bahrain Monetary Agency says salaries for junior doctors have been cut by more than a quarter over the past 15 years, when used as a measure of inflation for the Retail Price Index (RPI).

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It says its members voted overwhelmingly to strike.

Junior doctors’ strikes will put more pressure on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) which has been seeing strike waves by nurses, ambulance workers and other staff.

Daniel Zahedi, 27, is another junior doctor who plans to go on strike on Monday. He describes his hospital in Cambridge, in eastern England, as chronically understaffed and suffering.

“Often we just don’t have enough,” Zahedi said.

As a doctor in the first year after obtaining his medical degree, Zahedi said he earns around £29,000 a year in basic wages for a minimum of 40 hours a week. He said he worked nearly 60 hours this week, which is slightly above average but “not unusual”. Student loan debt is about 100,000 pounds.

He said, “Not only 100,000 as a student, you have to pay to become a member of your royal college, you have to pay to take exams, and even to advance your career.”

As it is, Al-Zahidi said, he does not see himself in the profession in the long term, despite his love for the job.

“People are being burned left, right and center – as wages are eroded year by year, as conditions are getting worse, as care for the sick is hurt,” he said.

“They feel undervalued and people leave.”

In January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined the need to reduce waiting times in hospitals as one of his government’s five priorities.

The government, which is fighting strikes across multiple sectors including train drivers and teachers, said there was a need to adjust public sector wages in order to control double-digit inflation.

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($1 = 0.8389 pounds)

Written by Farouk Suleiman. Editing by Kate Holton and Janet Lawrence

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