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Striking it Rich?: How strikes are impacting Healthcare

With public institutions nationwide routinely striking, we ask who is losing out… and are there any winners?

Credit - Rawpixel

You can’t open the papers at the moment without reading about another strike. Nurses. Firefighters. Train drivers. University professors. School teachers. Some are called off at the eleventh hour. Others go ahead, plunging the country into chaos.

Some yield promises of much-needed pay increases, others seem to exist in a permanent state of stalemate, and the rest feel like they may be getting somewhere, only to U-turn just as it looks like an end is in sight.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 16 days of NHS strike action in England between December 2022 and February 2023. Much of it was country-wide, staged by nursing, ambulance and physiotherapy staff, but localised action also took place throughout. And the result? 93,000+ lost outpatient appointments and almost 19,000 elective procedures placed on hold.

People enter healthcare with the intention of helping patients, but when cuts are so extreme that some believe safety is on the line, striking isn’t just about staff welfare - it’s about patient welfare too!

Want vitals with that? The true cost of a vocational calling

During a cost of living crisis, you'd assume that a medic’s salary would keep our doctors afloat.

Yet only recently, we learned that junior doctors are paid a lower hourly rate than people working at Pret a Manger (£14.09 Vs £14.10). There’s no implication that people working at Pret shouldn’t earn a decent living wage and benefit from regular inflationary pay rises.

But it's bound to sting if you’re upwards of ninety thousand pounds in debt with years of study still ahead, and expected to juggle between 100-150 patients per shift, making life-and-death decisions while fuelled on little sleep - and probably far worse coffee than that on offer at Pret.

Nursing a grudge: Royal College of Nursing urges members to support strike action following biggest-ever ballot

Just as the junior doctors agreed to pay talks after a three-day strike, cross-union nursing groups across England lobbied staff to reject the pay agreement brokered between the Government and their union leaders.

Many were incensed that a below-inflation raise had been agreed in principle, fuelling speculation that members would vote against the package, sending negotiations spiralling back to square one.

With over 47,000 unfilled NHS nursing roles across the UK, and thousands of burned-out, underpaid nursing staff leaving the profession, if more isn’t done to make nursing into a more covetable career, the workforce crisis will only escalate.

Export or duty? Is loyalty to the NHS enough to stop graduates from seeking better jobs overseas?

Of course, it’s not just low pay that’s driving people out of the NHS. Data from NHS Digital shows that 15,000 nurses resigned from the health service in the year to March 2022, with 4,000 citing work-life balance as their reason for leaving.

The far-reaching ramifications of Brexit together with poor working conditions are also cited as a major factor, leading to record numbers of job vacancies across multiple disciplines as thousands of NHS staff relocate to places such as New Zealand and Canada.

Australia in particular is especially popular, attracting 25% of our emigrating doctors, thanks to dedicated recruitment campaigns, designed to lure beleaguered NHS workers away to sunnier shores.

But what’s the answer?

Certainly, more needs to be done to attract and retain skilled staff. Doctors and nurses are abandoning the NHS in droves, targeted by overseas recruiters offering the promise of both better pay, and a better work/life balance.

We’re already short of 46,000 full-time doctors in England alone - and things aren’t going to improve without some serious incentivisation. As a minimum we need fair pay, that keeps up with inflation - and with Pret! - placed on the table.


For those who aren’t ready to give up on the UK, but are looking to reinvigorate their career, there’s a third option: temporary work placements.

Staffing Professionals is the leading provider of temporary - and permanent - placements across the UK’s healthcare sector. With opportunities across some of the country’s top institutions and plenty more with trail-blazing start-ups, your next big career move may be just a few clicks away.

Reach out to us below to learn more!


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