LONDON: Hospital doctors in England on Saturday kicked off another five-day strike, as their protracted pay battle with the government rumbles on with few signs of a break in the deadlock.

Junior doctors -- those below specialist, consultant level -- started joining picket lines from 0700 GMT, as part of a walkout that will last until the end of Wednesday.

It follows nearly a dozen strikes over the last year, which included the longest walkout -- totalling six days -- in the seven-decade history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

The country has been hit by walkouts across various sectors over the last two years, as decades-high inflation in 2023 and a cost-of-living crisis led staff to demand pay rises to keep up with spiralling prices.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has been asking for 35 percent “pay restoration” for junior doctors as its starting position, but insists it is willing to negotiate.

The UK government, which is responsible for health policy in England, has said the demands are unaffordable amid stretched public finances.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins on Saturday accused the BMA committee representing junior doctors of refusing to put her latest offer to its members.

She insisted the government was “prepared to go further than the pay increase of up to 10.3 percent that they have already received” and called for more talks.

But BMA junior doctors committee co-chairmen Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi said they need “a credible pay offer” which would “begin reversing the pay cuts they have inflicted upon us for more than a decade”. - AFP

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