Doctors leaders have accused the government of making misleading statements about the NHS pension dispute and today’s industrial action.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley has been appearing on television and radio this morning and is quoted in a range of newspapers, criticising doctors for protesting about the unfair changes to the NHS pension scheme.
But the BMA has pointed out that many of the claims that are being made are partial representations of the facts or, sometimes, ‘downright misleading’.
BMA council chairman Hamish Meldrum said the repeated and blatantly misleading comments about the dispute would ‘sadly confirm that he is simply unable and unwilling to listen to the genuine concerns of NHS staff’.
The BMA has issued a point-by-point rebuttal to the government’s points. It includes:
The government says: ‘If doctors’ contribution rates were to remain unchanged then a nurse earning £30,000 a year would see their take-home pay fall by around £100 per month simply to cover the shortfall. In seeking a more generous deal for doctors, they are seeking a more unfair deal for NHS staff overall.’
The BMA says: ‘The “spending envelope” which the government says NHS pension entitlements must now be funded within is an entirely arbitrary amount, set with no regard to the actual funding position of the NHS scheme or the 2008 reforms. Pitting one staff group against another to stay within this “envelope” is a completely false proposition. Doctors rightly pay more than lower paid workers and we are not seeking to change that.’
The government says: ‘Taxpayers paid an estimated £67bn of the £83bn cost. This means that doctors pay £1 out of every £5 of their pensions, while tax paying members of the public pay the rest.’
The BMA says: ‘The NHS pension scheme does not work by building up a “pension pot” - staff working now pay for the pensions of NHS staff who are retired. The scheme currently brings in £2bn more than it pays out – this money goes back to the Treasury. Under the latest changes, doctors will be paying up to 14.5 per cent of their pay towards their pensions. Employers’ contributions are 14 per cent across the board and, under the 2008 agreement, they are capped at that for the future.’
The government says: ‘It is disappointing that the BMA has never fielded the BMA pensions committee chair at any of the pensions negotiating meetings, calling into question the seriousness of the BMA’s commitment to the process.’
The BMA says: ‘We have expressed our huge concern throughout the process that such radical changes are not necessary as the 2008 reforms are still valid. We have not been allowed to be part of meaningful negotiations as the government has had a fixed position on contributions, scheme design and pension age. It is completely misleading to continue to imply that the BMA was not committed to negotiations – the BMA was represented at meetings by our usual, full-time pensions lead; all other unions were represented by their equivalent of this post.’
Read the rebuttal in full