BMA press releases archive

First ballot of doctors on industrial action for 37 years opens

(issued Monday 14 May 2012)

The first ballot of UK doctors on industrial action since 1975 opens today (Monday 14 May 2012).

Government plans would mean NHS staff working longer and contributing as much as 14.5% of their pay for their pensions - almost twice as much as some other public sector workers on similar pay, for similar pensions. The changes are being imposed without genuine negotiation, and despite the fact that the NHS pension scheme underwent a major overhaul only four years ago.

In 2008, NHS staff agreed to a higher normal pension age and higher contributions as part of an agreement to make the scheme affordable and sustainable in the long term. Far from being a drain on taxpayers, it currently delivers a positive cashflow to the Treasury of 2.5 billion a year.

Following the Government’s refusal to consider a fairer approach, the BMA is balloting doctors on industrial action – in a form which would assure patient safety – for the first time since 1975. Ballot packs are being posted out to 103,000 doctors across the UK today.

The BMA is asking doctors to take action which would:
    • not be strike action as the term is normally understood by the public, as it would not involve a full withdrawal of labour
    • ensure all emergency care, or other care urgently needed by patients, would be provided
    • involve doctors being in their usual places of work, if scheduled to be in on the day of action
    • take place for a 24-hour period initially (with its impact – particularly on patients – assessed before any further action was taken).

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: “This is not where we set out to be – industrial action is only ever a last resort. However, the Government’s refusal to rethink its unnecessary reforms to a pension scheme that is already affordable and sustainable has left us with no alternative. We are not talking about a full withdrawal of labour. All emergency and urgent care would be provided, and doctors would still be at their usual places of work.”

Ends

Notes to Editors
    1) View a briefing paper on the changes to NHS pensions, the background to the dispute, and the model of action doctors are considering: http://www.bma.org.uk/images/bmapensionsmediabriefingmay2012_tcm41-212763.pdf

    2) The ballot opens today and closes at 5pm on Tuesday 29 May. The results will be announced on Wednesday 30 May

    3) Doctors in England and Wales, where the UK government has responsibility for the NHS pension scheme, would be affected by these changes. The Scottish Government has initiated talks with health trade unions, but no alternative offer has been made. It is also likely that the Northern Ireland Assembly will go ahead with the same plans, but so far this has not been definitely confirmed.


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