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Clear mandate for action over pensions

Doctors will take the first industrial action in a generation in less than three weeks’ time following a historic ballot over pension reforms.

The day of action on Thursday June 21 will see doctors provide urgent and emergency care only for a 24-hour period. Plans for further periods of action are being considered.

BMA council took the decision after being given overwhelming support for its proposed industrial action in ballots of members that closed on May 29.

Of the 104,544 doctors balloted, 50 per cent voted. Across separate ballots covering six branches of practice, a clear majority of: GPs; consultants; junior doctors; staff, associate specialists and specialty doctors, and public health and community health doctors said they were prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike and a strike, while a majority of occupational medicine doctors voted against industrial action.  

The BMA action does not constitute a strike as the term is normally understood by the public, but the two questions were necessary to ensure maximum legal protection.

Reluctant decision

BMA council chairman Hamish Meldrum said: ‘We are taking this step very reluctantly, and would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution. But this clear mandate for action — on a very high turnout — reflects just how let down doctors feel by the government’s unwillingness to find a fairer approach to the latest pension changes and its refusal to acknowledge the major reforms of 2008 that made the NHS scheme sustainable in the long term.’

He added: ‘We are not seeking preferential treatment but fair treatment. The government’s wholesale changes to an already reformed NHS pension scheme cannot be justified.’

NHS Employers director Dean Royles said: ‘We are deeply disappointed with the announcement from the BMA about their decision to take industrial action. Doctors know that any industrial action will impact on care and cause distress and disruption to patients and undermine trust and confidence in the medical profession.’

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said people would not ‘understand or sympathise with’ the BMA decision.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘As the BMA have made clear patient safety must come first — their actions must not harm patients or put them at risk.’