For impact of strikes on patient care see healthcare worker strikes.
Many unionized groups of NHS employees took industrial action in 1975 and this continued to the 1978 and 1979 Winter of discontent. This lead to the Clegg commission on public service pay, the Standing Commission on Pay Comparability as a political compromise with the unions which was abolished in 1980 when change in Government resulted in curbing of union power
Junior doctors took industrial action in November 1975. The main issues were hours of work (80-120/week) and pay, with the rate of pay falling after the first 44 hours - reducing by about two-thirds. Much of the strike action involved working to a 40 hour week. Some pay concessions were made by the NHS.
The strike action followed the Labour government (Barbara Castle, social services minister) issuing a unilateral new junior staff contract (Oxford code). It had a number of complex issues including delay in implementation of pay scales that were to be implemented in October, as a result of enforcement of a subsequent national general pay policy (freeze). At this time trainees often worked 1:2 rotas and tended to have responsibility for a single firms patients. The dispute was resolved within 1 month with a final resulting contract specified for the first time:
- Number of hours which junior doctors were expected to be on duty
- Basic salary plus extra payment for additional hours. The extra payment rate was determined from a £12 million national settlement and was not "overtime".
In 2012 there was a 24 hour doctor strike involving in a locally patchy fashion about 8% of the NHS doctor work force on the issue of pension reform. An analysis of the national impact was that emergency admissions fell by 2.4%, elective admissions decreased by 12.8%, outpatient activity dropped by 7.8% and A&E attendances dropped by 4.7%. In hospital mortaliity did not increase significantly
A number of health unions with nurses and midwives as members took or threatened industrial action in the UK during November 2014 which was resolved by a pay settlement aimed at the more lowly paid
NHS junior doctors took industrial action in 2016 when the UK Conservative government (Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health) issued a unilateral contract for England. The UK action was limited to England as the devolved countries did not attempt to impose a changed contract
Saskatchewan physicians strike in 1962 lasted 28 days with defeat due to popularity of new Medicare program and the provincial government implementing it.
Quebec specialists struck in 1970 against Medicare and lost
In 1974 after 12 days Howard University housestaff at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, DC were successful in obtaining a salary increase, improved laboratory facilities and nursing coverage, and better fringe benefits plan including paying for malpractice insurance
In 1975 New York public hospital house staff struck for 3 days on issues that included excessive hours and effectively won. However, also in 1975 although housestaff in Chicago’s Cook County Hospital obtained much of what they wanted with respect to quality of patient care, working conditions, and work hours after 18 days, their leaders were jailed
In 1976 75% of Los Angeles County physicians struck over malpractice insurance reform and after 35 days some minor reforms occurred but major demands never meet. There was also a dispute in New York that year in which 30 physicians were fired and rehired
Quebec specialists in 1980 wanted to opt out of Medicare or extra-bill patients beyond fee schedule but strike collapsed after 1 day when generalists colleagues did not support.
Ontario had banned extra billing for services in 1984 and by 1986 physicians tried a 25 day strike to resolve issue. They lost as no public support
Ontario obstetricians and orthopedic surgeons stopped taking new patients as malpractice insurance subsidies were ended. Colleagues supported their actions and issue was won
New Brunswick physicians struck for 3 days in 2000 to obtain parity in pay with other provinces, with only partial success
Industrial action in West Virginia in 2003 because of large increase in malpractice premiums effectively failed when examined retrospectively
The 2003 Timaru senior doctors strike left local hospital services in a mess for years
A 2008 junior doctors strike showed that one senior doctor could easily carry the workload of two junior doctors in internal medicine or accident and emergency if outpatient clinics and elective admissions were mostly cancelled. Waiting times and length of stay were markedly reduced.
In September 2014 nurses and midwives took industrial action over a pay freeze with in due course resolution
In October 2016 resident doctors announced strike action because of concerns working hours were unsafe.
Poland had nursing strikes in 2009 which were widely supported
The German mid-March 2006 university physicians strike, as a result of an increase in the hours of the official workweek when most doctors were already working well over these hours was resolved after 3 months of collective action and negotiation
In France between December 2014 to March 2015 groups of doctors, mainly those in general practice took industrial action in an attempt to modify government plans to introduce third part payments which meet some of its aims