The situation in the UK's health care system is being described as "broken" as thousands of emergency medical workers in England and Wales went on a strike second time in a month over a pay dispute.
Nearly 25,000 paramedics, call handlers, drivers and technicians took part in staggered strikes over a 24-hour period on Jan. 11. The first industrial action took place on Dec. 21, 2022.
Antonia Gosnell, a paramedic with the London ambulance service, told Anadolu that the government is not meeting with unions to assess the demands of health workers.
"The pay isn't helping our staff to live. It's just not enough. The conditions are getting worse for us," she said. "If people were to look back today, blaming us for what's happening -- it's not us, it's the government. We want better working conditions."
- Problem with NHS
Gosnell described the health care system as "broken," adding: "It's every day that people are dying and it's because we haven't got the resources and staff to go to those. Our NHS (National Health Service) is broken. We can't just keep putting sticky plasters over things now.
"The government needs to talk to our unions and so that things can get resolved and the public gets the service they deserve."
Emily Snashall, another paramedic, said Brits are struggling because the NHS has had difficulty maintaining the large and diverse body of qualified staff needed to effectively deliver services.
"The biggest problem is the NHS, it is being left underfunded, resulting in lack of health services for the public," she said, adding that it “is the reason why we are here because we want to raise awareness about this problem.”
"People are struggling, waiting long hours to get help. It shouldn't be like that. I and my colleagues have been seeing people dying because of long waiting times," she said.
Sara Gorton, head of health at the UNISON union, said the health workers on strike "wanted to be on duty by responding to all calls from patients, but the conditions they were in forced them to go on strike."
Gorton said the problem will not be resolved until ministers seize the initiative, get everyone around the table and negotiate a way to the best deal for staff, patients and services.
“The public knows ambulance response times are worsening and hospital waiting lists are growing because the NHS no longer has the necessary staff to meet demand, nor provide safe patient care," she said.
"Anyone who received ambulance service was in a health center, or was waiting for a routine doctor's appointment in the last year will know the worsening crisis in England's NHS today. This cannot go on like this."
- Junior doctors in debt, excess deaths
Meanwhile, junior doctors are also said to have been struggling financially because of high debt. Many have been unable afford their rent or mortgage, along with difficulty in paying to heat and light their homes, according to the British Medical Association.
While the UK's health care system has always had problems, things have lately taken a turn for the worse amid the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war, Brexit and a tightening cost-of-living crisis, reports by unions, universities, independent think tanks show.
One in 10 health care workers quit their jobs in the 12 months prior to June last year, according to a study by Nuffield Trust, an independent health think tank in the UK.
"Some one in four have said when surveyed that they would leave the role as soon as they could find another job," said the study.
As the health system is in distress, excess deaths were also high in 2022, with data indicating that pandemic effects on health and NHS pressures are among the leading explanations.
The latest government figures showed that 9,517 deaths were posted in the week ending Dec. 30, 2022, compared to the 1,592 five-year average for that time of year.
"The number of deaths was above the five-year average in private homes (36.9% above, 684 excess deaths), hospitals (14.8% above, 537 excess deaths), care homes (20.4% above; 371 excess deaths) and other settings (0.2% above, 1 excess death)," the Office for National Statistics said.