Junior Doctors striking outside Manchester Royal Infirmary

NHS junior doctors’ strike: ‘restore pay so we can deliver better care’

  • Three-day NHS junior doctors’ strike at hospitals in and around Greater Manchester
  • Doctors from every sector including accident and emergency  and acute medicine have been taking industrial action
  • Competitive salaries overseas is one of the reasons why medical staff are moving abroad.

Today (15 March) was the final day of the three-day NHS junior doctors’ strike at hospitals in and around Greater Manchester.

Hundreds marched along Oxford Road to demand pay restoration and a reform of the medical sector.

Doctors from every sector including accident and emergency and acute medicine have been taking industrial action. This is despite the fluctuating weather in the north west including a hail storm yesterday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said junior doctors were striking to restore pay to 2008 levels.

According to the BMA, junior doctor salary has not increased in line with inflation and is equal to cuts of more than 25% to their salaries since 2008 / 2009.

System is ‘overstretched’

NQ Spoke to junior doctors at the picket line at the Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), who say they are working 45 hours a week on average. There is also an expectation to move around the hospital to cover roles at the Oxford Road site.

Dr Jo Sutton-Klein, a doctor at MRI, said: “The whole system is completely overstretched.

“We don’t have enough doctors because our pay is too low. As doctors we also have to pay a huge amount of money for exams and training courses, which are compulsory. And we’re paying for this out of our own pockets a lot of the time.”

Patients have been assured they will be seen in an emergency despite the strike.

Dr Sutton-Klein said: “If a patient comes to A&E here today (to the MRI hospitals), they’re going to be seen by a team of amazing consultants. So they’re going to get really high-quality care.

“It’s every other day of the year when A&E is understaffed and underfunded that patients are receiving poor quality care.”

Competitive salaries overseas

The General Medical Council (GMC) undertook a study in October 2022 which found that burn-out and negative experiences at work were some of the reasons why doctors chose to move overseas.

Junior doctors are thinking of emigrating to places such as Australia

Dr Matt Burrows, a junior doctor in acute medicine, confirmed this, saying more medical staff were migrating to countries such as Australia and Canada in recent years.

“The wage isn’t competitive enough to keep people here,” said Dr Burrows.

“Not only is the pay better in other countries like Austrailia, New Zealand and Canada, but you’re working less hours and there’s less expectation for you to move around to different hospitals as part of your training.

“Those services are under less pressure, so there’s more time for seniors to train you, get you to the next level and help you learn how to do different procedures”.

This is part of a larger issue with pay and understaffing within the NHS.

Marching to demand changes

Junior doctors’ march on Oxford Road. Credit: Dave Porter

Leaders of unions are urging the Conservative government to negotiate, but no conclusion has been reached yet.