BMA press releases archive

BMA rejects pensions offer and urges government to think again

(issued Wednesday 18 Jan 2012)

Following an overwhelming call from doctors to reject the government’s proposed changes to the NHS Pension Scheme and a willingness to undertake some form of industrial action, the BMA today (Wednesday 18 January 2012) called on the government to urgently reconsider their plans.

The decision was taken today at a meeting of BMA Council, the association’s governing body, following consideration of results of a major survey of 130,000 doctors and medical students.

The UK-wide survey received over 46,000 responses – a response rate of 36%. Over eight in ten (84%) said the latest proposals should be rejected. Almost two-thirds (63%) said they would personally be prepared to take industrial action to pursue changes to the proposals. More than a third (36%) of doctors aged 50 and over say they intend to retire early if the changes go ahead.

The BMA has now formally written to the government rejecting the offer and urging them to engage with the BMA and unions representing NHS staff to agree fairer changes. At the same time, the BMA will work up detailed plans on taking industrial action. All attempts will be made to ensure that any plans for action would minimise any risk of harm to patients.

An emergency meeting of BMA Council will be held on 25 February to decide on the options for balloting on industrial action, should there not be a significant change in the Government’s position.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council said: “The strength and scale of feeling among doctors is abundantly clear - they feel let down and betrayed, and for many this is the final straw. Doctors are at the forefront of attempts to save the NHS 20 billion, while trying to protect patient care, are in the midst of huge system reform in England, which is causing chaos in many areas, and are about to enter a fourth successive year of a pay freeze. Now on top of this, they are facing wholesale changes to their pension scheme, which was radically overhauled less than four years ago and is actually delivering a positive cashflow to the Treasury.

“Forcing doctors to work to almost 70 is one of our most serious concerns as it could put pressure on doctors to work beyond the age at which they feel competent and safe.

“Industrial action remains a last resort and the Government must urgently reconsider its damaging plans. The action we are considering is unprecedented in recent decades. This demonstrates the current level of discontent among NHS staff.”

Although there have been minor improvements on the government’s original offer through negotiation, all doctors still stand to be hit very hard. The retirement age would increase, with many having to work to 68 before being able to draw a full pension. The amount doctors have to pay into their pension would rise significantly, with those at the start of their careers facing the prospect of paying over 200,000 in additional lifetime contributions. And the current final salary scheme would be replaced with a new career average scheme, which would leave most doctors with worse overall benefits.

Ends

Notes to editors

View the full survey results at: http://www.bma.org.uk/employmentandcontracts/pensions/nhs_pensions_reform/pensionsurveyresults2012.jsp

View details of the most recent government offer: http://www.bma.org.uk/employmentandcontracts/pensions/nhs_pensions_reform/nhspensionchanges.jsp

The last time doctors took industrial action was in 1975, when consultants suspended goodwill activities and worked to contract over a contractual dispute, and junior doctors took action because of dissatisfaction with the progress of contract negotiations.


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