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Junior doctors in the UK prepare to strike over pay and burnout

Tens of thousands of British junior doctors plan to go on strike next week, as they are overworked, underpaid, and burdened with high costs of living. Many of them claim they have been pushed to the brink after below-inflation pay rises collided with the surging cost of living and obligation to pay student loans which may exceed USD 100,000.

Junior doctors across England plan to go on strike on March 13 for three days, protesting over pay and burnout that risks driving staff out of the health service as it tackles record-high patient waiting lists.

Junior doctors are qualified physicians, often with several years of experience, who work under the guidance of senior doctors and represent a large part of the country’s medical community.

“We’ve reached a boiling point where we have had enough. The anger is palpable that we have been used and abused and devalued to this extent,” said 28-year-old Poh Wang – a council member of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors and medical students.

He is paid around GBP 40,000 a year for his base 40 hours a week and works additional hours which can add up to around 48 hours a week. He rents a room in a shared flat in west London, an option that can cost around GBP 1,000 a month.

He is struggling to get by financially now, as food inflation hits 17% in Britain, leaving him and his colleagues increasingly bitter about the last few years.

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

“If you value us and what we’ve gone through and in terms of the sacrifices that we’ve made then pay us properly.”

The BMA estimates that junior doctors’ take-home pay has been cut by more than a quarter over the last 15 years due to inflation. The members of the organization voted overwhelmingly to carry out a strike.

The walkouts by junior doctors will put more pressure on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) which is experiencing waves of strike action by nurses, ambulance workers, and other staff.

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

Battling strikes across multiple sectors including train drivers and teachers, the government has said public sector pay restraint is needed in order to get double-digit inflation under control.

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