LONDON - Workers in England's state-run National Health Service go on strike on Monday for the first time since 1982 following a government refusal to hike their pay.
NHS staff including nurses, ambulance crews and midwives plan to stop working between 7:00 am and 11:00 am (0600 GMT and 1000 GMT).
The move is intended to pile pressure on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who rejected the recommendations of an independent panel for a one-per cent wage increase for all health service staff.
The recommendations, Hunt said back in March, "on top of automatic increments, are unaffordable and would risk the quality of patient care".
Created in 1948 and paid for through taxation, the NHS provides universal healthcare free at the point of delivery.
"Our first priority must be to ensure that the NHS can afford to employ the right number of frontline staff needed to ensure the safe, effective and compassionate care that patients have a right to expect," Hunt said.
The Conservative-Liberal coalition government has roughly halved Britain's budget deficit from 11 per cent since taking office in 2010.
But the continued belt-tightening has been criticised by trade unions, citing the health of the British economy, which is expected to grow by three per cent in 2014.