Members of unions representing more than 400,000 nurses, midwives, and other health care workers in the U.K. walked off work today in a dispute over pay. It’s the country’s first health-worker strike over money in more than 30 years. From the Guardian:
The four-hour walkout between 7am and 11am is occurring on a Monday, which is usually the NHS’s busiest day.
The unions involved have stressed that patient care and patient safety will not be compromised. Anyone needing urgent or emergency care will still get it. For example, midwives tending to women in labour will remain with them throughout.
But the action will lead to planned operations and outpatient clinics being postponed in some places. Ambulance services may prove to be the most affected. About 100 military personnel will drive ambulances in greater London and another 30 will do the same in the north-west, covering for drivers who are on strike. In the capital, 74 Metropolitan Police vehicles will also respond to calls involving low levels of medical need.
The unions are calling for 1 percent across-the-board pay increases and say that their compensation has fallen 15 percent against the cost of living since Prime Minister David Cameron took power. The government says it can’t afford the increase.
Britain’s National Health Service was created in 1948; funded by taxes, it’s largely free to all citizens. The Guardian’s piece about the details and dynamics of the pay dispute is recommended alternate-universe reading for anyone who’s been keeping tabs on the United States’ own Obamacare-era experiments in guaranteeing access to health care.