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Thousands of U.K. Hospital Doctors Walk Out in the Latest Pay Dispute, Crippling Health Services

Consultant members of the British Medical Association (BMA) during a rally at the BMA headquarters in London, as consultants in England take industrial action for the first time in more than a decade, Thursday July 20, 2023. (James Manning/PA via AP)
Consultant members of the British Medical Association (BMA) during a rally at the BMA headquarters in London, as consultants in England take industrial action for the first time in more than a decade, Thursday July 20, 2023. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Thousands of senior doctors in England began a 48-hour walkout Thursday to demand better pay and conditions, paralyzing hospitals and leaving only emergency care covered.

The severe disruptions are the latest in a wave of industrial action by public sector workers amid U.K.'s ongoing cost-of-living crisis. They come just two days after junior doctors went on strike for five days, the longest walkout in the history of the state-funded National Health Service.

Thousands of operations and appointments have been canceled, and health officials say the impact of the latest round of strikes to hit the country's public health system is likely to be the biggest yet because almost no work can be done at hospitals unless it's supervised by a senior doctor.

Senior doctors, known as consultants in the U.K., will only be “on call” for urgent work such as critical cancer care until Saturday morning.

The Conservative government has offered a 6% pay increase to the doctors, but the British Medical Association, the doctors' union known as the BMA, called this “derisory." It said doctors have seen real-term take-home pay fall by more than a third over the last 14 years, and accused authorities of refusing to engage in negotiations on pay.

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