Opinion: The government needs to give junior doctors fair pay and protect our NHS

Created after the end of the second world war, the NHS has just celebrated its 75th anniversary. It’s been the only healthcare system the majority of us have ever known.

But in recent years the Conservative government has threatened what is arguably our country’s greatest asset. The narrative that NHS failings are a result of Covid-19 is misleading.

While there is no denying that post-pandemic the health services have struggled, the circumstances weren’t ideal to begin with. According to the British Medical Association, prior to the pandemic, in February 2020 there were 4.57million people on waiting lists for consultant-led elective care which has now risen to 7.47m in May 2023.

The situation has worsened due to multiple junior doctor strikes caused by pay disputes. The most recent demonstration took place from 13 to 18 July. 

As a result of the walkouts, 819,000 appointments, operations and procedures have been postponed in England over the last eight months.

Junior doctors – who are essential to the well-being of this country – earn, on average, just over £29,000 annually. That is almost £3,000 less than the average Boots manager’s salary. 

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, has said that the government’s offer of a 6% pay rise and an additional £1,250 is the final offer. 

However, the BMA announced that a fifth round of industrial action in England is set to take place from 11 to 15 August, prompting new calls for better negotiations.

Everybody understands that budgeting for all areas of the public sector is a challenging job. But with the cost-of-living crisis it seems clear that doctors deserve better.

Seeing first-hand how hard-working people on the front line were during the pandemic and how hard-working they continue to be, it’s confusing how our ‘heroes’ do not deserve a fair wage that’s relative to their incredible work. 

They’re under-staffed, under-paid and under-funded. No human will be able to maintain this forever. 

According to the BMA, “workload and waiting lists are at record highs” – and yet, since 2008, junior doctors have had their pay cut by more than a quarter. 

So while politicians are living comfortably, our healthcare professionals are being driven out of their profession in order to make ends meet. Surely the government can see that this can’t continue and that it will result in an increase of labour turnover and unfortunately more disruptions for patients.

The services we rely on are at risk and need to be protected before it’s too late.

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