Britain's junior doctors prepare to strike

STORY: Overworked, underpaid, and burdened with a student loan he can barely imagine paying off on his current wage.

That's the situation 27-year-old Daniel Zahedi says he finds himself in.

Based in Cambridge in eastern England, he's preparing to join thousands of junior doctors in a three-day strike across England from March 13 -

As financial struggles and burnout risk driving staff out of Britain's health service as it tackles record-high patient waiting lists.

“My pay is £14 an hour, one, four and I am graduating with over £100,000 of debt.”

“It was only recently we put our heating on after people were getting ill in my house. It's just ridiculous that you think this career of being a doctor, like, fine, I won't be I won't be a multi-millionaire, but I should be able to put my heating on and not worry about that and not worry about getting through the month.”

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors and medical students, says junior doctors' take-home pay has been cut by more than a quarter over the last 15 years, when using the Retail Price Index (RPI) gauge of inflation.

It says its members voted overwhelmingly to strike.

28-year-old junior doctor Poh Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants who ran a takeaway restaurant in northern England, says the situation is unsustainable.

“Ever since 2008 we have had (relative) pay cut after pay cut and there's been zero above inflation pay rises given to us, and that's eroded our pay by 26% since 2008. Now a doctor today isn't worth 26% less than a doctor 15 years ago. In fact, the work is even harder and even tougher these days in the NHS.”

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.

“I don't feel valued. I feel like I'm on the precipice of burnout and like chronically and it's not sustainable and we can't go on like this. Something needs to change.”

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.