January 13, 2016
Yesterday, thousands of physicians in England went on strike to protest a new contract proposed by their National Health Service (NHS). The strike, which ended this morning, was organized primarily by “junior doctors" - medical professionals with up to ten years of experience. It's unclear how many physicians participated in the strike, but over 4,000 non-urgent operations were cancelled as a result (striking physicians continued to offer emergency care). At the heart of the dispute is compensation: the NHS’s contract increases basic pay for physicians but decreases the amount of compensation for extra hours. The aim of this shift is to improve hospital safety on weekends, when hospitals often find themselves understaffed and may (or may not) see increased mortality rates for some conditions. The government claims the contract would create "a genuine seven-day service," but the strikers argue that the contract would lead to more work, more strain, and less safety. All of this is happening at a time when the NHS, known widely as one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world, is becoming increasingly financially burdened by an aging population and tightened budgets.