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BMA seeks fresh start for pension talks

Doctors will not be asked to take further industrial action before late July as the BMA leadership seeks urgent discussions on pensions with the government.

The BMA council agreed new chair Mark Porter would request an immediate meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley before deciding on the next steps in the NHS pension dispute.

Today’s decision gives a three-week window for Mr Lansley to meet Dr Porter ahead of the next BMA council meeting in Edinburgh on July 18.

At that stage, the BMA council expects to have fuller information, including detail on how and when negotiations on the next stage of the government’s proposed changes will take place.

The special meeting of the BMA council took place at the end of the BMA annual representative meeting in Bournemouth where doctors and medical students had demanded further industrial action over pensions.

Dr Porter stressed that the deferral of a decision on a second day of action did not mean doctors had abandoned their industrial action.

'Doctors remain angry'

He said: ‘It was clear from the debates at our annual meeting today that doctors remain angry at the government for tearing up a pensions deal reached only four years ago and which made the scheme sustainable for the future.

‘Our preferred option has always been to find a fairer way forward through negotiation and I want to explore that with [Mr Lansley]. I will be writing to him to seek an urgent meeting.’

The BMA council decision comes amid indications the government might be prepared to discuss areas of pension reform about which doctors and medical students have had particular concerns.

In a letter to NHS staff council chair Christina McAnea, Mr Lansley says he recognises that trade unions are particularly concerned about the proposed increase in the normal pension age which would be linked to the state pension age. This could mean doctors having to work until they are 68.

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, and the government has committed to keep the link between the pension ages under review.

He also says there needs to be discussions about pension contribution rate increases over the next two years.

As doctors took industrial action within four weeks of the BMA ballot, as required by law, the ballot result remains valid and there is no immediate deadline by which further action must take place.

Read the press release