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Doctors to fight on for fair pensions

The BMA is working with other health unions to campaign on the fairness of the NHS pension scheme, particularly the increased retirement age of 68.

The BMA council decided yesterday that doctors would not be asked to take further industrial action as the next step in the NHS pension reform dispute.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said further industrial action was not being ruled out but the profession would always prefer to seek change by negotiation and lobbying.

He said: ‘Doctors’ anger with the government for tearing up a pensions deal reached only four years ago and which made the scheme sustainable for the future will not just go away. We have not ruled out taking further industrial action in the future and we are committed to continuing to fight for a fairer deal in the longer term.’

The BMA will be joining other health unions in talks with the government about the detail of the pension changes.

Many doctors are unwilling to escalate industrial action beyond the urgent and emergency care model used on June 21, despite their frustration with the government’s pension reforms.

Strong message

Dr Porter added: ‘Last month’s action enabled thousands of doctors to send a strong and clear message to the government about how let down they felt, while also honouring their commitment to protect patient safety.’

Talks are also continuing in Scotland between the NHS trade unions and the Scottish government.

BMA Scottish council chair Brian Keighley said the association was pleased the Scottish government had recognised the unfairness of the plans and would continue to be involved. But he warned that the talks must result in a ‘genuine alternative to the UK proposals’.

BMA Scotland has been concerned that the scope for an alternative offer seems to be increasingly limited by Treasury edicts.

Dr Keighley added: ‘The BMA Scottish council will be keeping under review the position with regard to further action in Scotland. In the meantime, we will also continue to campaign with our colleagues in the rest of the UK to challenge the coalition government’s unnecessary and unfair plans.’

Pension age considered

Since the doctors’ day of action on June 21, health secretary Andrew Lansley has indicated he is willing to negotiate on the issues of NHS staff working longer and on the proposed increases to pension contributions over the next two years.

In a letter to NHS staff council chair Christina McAnea at the end of June, Mr Lansley says the implications of the increase in the normal pension age will be considered in the Working Longer Review, commissioned by the Department of Health.

While the first increases in pension contributions took effect in April 2012, the other major changes are due to be introduced in 2015.

Research by Ipsos MORI shows there was high awareness of the day of action among the public and the majority were confident about the BMA’s commitment to protect patient safety.

There was also significantly more support for doctors over the government in the dispute.