Professor Philip Banfield, chair of the BMA, has announced that NHS employers are due to go on a short-term strike, most likely early next year, in order to fight for a pay rise. There has been a real-terms decrease in salary of approximately 30% since 2008, and therefore the means of the strike is to motivate the government to restore the loss in pay over these years. Sadly, NHS workers are feeling underappreciated, and this is likely to lead to a loss of NHS staff numbers and consequential detrimental effects to the NHS itself. Banfield also alluded to the hit that the NHS and its patients have already been experiencing due to a lack of funding. However, there is hope that the strike proposes realistic and achievable changes, and through restoring fair pay will improve overall patient care.
Outcomes of not restoring pay for NHS workers could be divided into short- and long-term consequences. Considering the short-term, NHS staff are likely to feel let down, de-motivated and underappreciated. For this reason, they may consider other options for work and choose to leave the NHS. For newly qualified relevant personnel, they may respond by choosing to not work full time in the NHS, or maybe not work for the NHS at all. Importantly, in the long-term, the quality of care provided by the NHS is likely to decline due to a decrease in staff numbers and a consequent increase in tiredness and burnout.
During the days of the strike itself, there would be huge disruptions to the NHS. As we know, the beloved NHS staff are what makes our NHS and therefore the public will likely have reduced access to services. The goals of the strike appear to be realistic: the BMA chair highlighted that the cost required to restore NHS workers’ pay is less than the amount spent on failed test-and-trace services developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As previously indicated, it is important, not only for the current but also for future cohorts of NHS staff, that their voices are heard and action is taken. With bodies of both doctors and nurses’ unions discussing the potential for upcoming strikes and continuing to fight for the restoration of pay, the public can only hope that government response and subsequent outcomes will be adequate.