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Junior NHS doctors have picketed several times over pay issues, leading to thousands of appointments and operations being canceled across England.
The cost of recruiting senior staff to cover striking workers is also estimated to have seen NHS trusts spend millions of pounds on extra wages.
Orchestrated mainly by the British Medical Association (BMA) union, the action has impacted the lives of thousands of people waiting for much-needed NHS care after delays increased during the pandemic.
The toxic dispute has led to a war of words with doctors and the various ministers who have come and gone over the course of the long discussion.
For its part, the BMA is campaigning for a 35 per cent pay rise which they say represents a “restoration” of the profession.
The union says massive pay rises are needed to address more than a decade of below-inflation pay rises and stop an exodus of doctors leaving the UK for better-paid jobs abroad.
But the Government says such demands are unrealistic given the country’s finances.
So what exactly are young doctors paid and what do they ask for?
Young doctors are demanding a pay rise of up to 35 per cent to address a “real terms” pay cut over the past 15 years.
Health Minister Maria Caulfield described the British Medical Association’s demands as “unrealistic and unattainable.”
The junior doctors have been in a formal dispute with the government since October 2022.
What is a junior doctor?
The young doctors have graduated from medical school but remain in clinical training and represent about half of the country’s medical workforce.
They work under the supervision of experienced doctors during their work experience.
All medical graduates must complete a two-year general training program before embarking on specialist training, which can last up to eight years.
Young doctors have graduated from medical school, but remain in clinical training for up to eight years.
How much do young doctors earn?
The lowest paid young doctors, in their first year of foundation, earn an annual salary of £32,398.
BMA pay formulas equate to around £15.53 per hour.
This is the base level and does not take into account working weekends or evenings, or earning overtime, which can increase your hourly rate by up to 30 percent.
The basic salary of the most senior junior doctor (in their final years of specialist training) is £63,152 per annum.
Again, as in other industries, junior doctors can also gain the London weighting, which is set for NHS professionals between £1,136 and £7,377, depending on whether workers live in the city center or in the city. periphery.
The lowest paid junior doctors earn an annual salary of £29,384, which is equivalent to £14.09 an hour.
What are the salary demands of young doctors and why are they on strike?
The BMA says the workforce has suffered a 26.1 per cent pay cut in real terms since 2008/09.
He says addressing this translates into a 35 percent pay increase.
If ministers relented, some doctors would receive more than £20,000.
BMA officials have suggested that the union would be willing to negotiate a deal that would complete this restoration over several years, rather than in one big leap.
BMA junior doctors and Unite the Union health workers strike at Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester on June 14.
How many times have young doctors been on strike?
The junior doctors have been on strike ten times since they first took part in picketing in early 2023.
The combined action, the longest of which was a record six-day strike, means the NHS has lost 28 days of junior doctors’ work.
Unions and the health service generally agree to provide a minimum level of service, also called “life and limb care” or derogation, to keep patients safe in A&E and hospital.
Senior doctors may also be asked to “step down” and cover the work of junior doctors to keep staffing levels safe, freeing up junior doctors to attend picket lines.
However, the NHS cannot recruit agency staff to fill gaps left by strikers, due to a High Court ruling.
This does not apply to a hospital’s own ‘bench’ staff, and the NHS has provided guidance to trusts on the issue.
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What salary increases has the government offered to young doctors?
Ministers have consistently said the demands on young doctors are unrealistic in the circumstances.
Junior doctors were offered a pay rise of 8.8 per cent, on average, for the 2023/24 financial year.
However, the increase was largest for first-year doctors, who were given a 10.3 percent raise.
While ministers had originally insisted this was the final offer, new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins offered doctors an extra 3 per cent on top of this increase.
But the BMA said this enhanced sum was still “completely insufficient” and still represented a pay cut compared to inflation.
It’s worth noting that junior doctors still got the 8.8 percent pay rise under the deal imposed on them, but that hasn’t put an end to the dispute.
The BMA continues to maintain its original 35 per cent “salary restoration campaign”.