BMA press releases archive

Doctors to take industrial action for first time in almost 40 years

(issued Wednesday 30 May 2012)

Doctors will take industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years over major changes to the NHS pension scheme, the BMA confirmed today (Wednesday 30 May, 2012). The first day of action will take place on 21 June 2012 and will see doctors providing all urgent and emergency care, but postponing non-urgent cases.

BMA Council made the decision after considering the results of its ballots on industrial action which closed yesterday. Overall, 50 per cent of the 104,544 doctors eligible to vote took part. Across separate ballots covering six branches of practice, a clear majority of: GPs; consultants; junior doctors; staff, associate specialist and speciality doctors, and public health and community health doctors said they were prepared to take part in both industrial action short of a strike and a strike, while a majority of occupational medicine doctors voted against industrial action.

Although the BMA’s planned action does not constitute a strike as the term is normally understood by the public, the two questions were asked in order to provide maximum legal protection. Doctors will still be at their usual workplaces.

The government has begun to implement major changes to the NHS pension scheme, despite widespread criticism of its approach from organisations representing health professionals. In 2008, the BMA, other health unions and the government negotiated a major reform of the NHS scheme, which all agreed made it fair and sustainable well into the future.

The NHS scheme currently delivers a positive cashflow of 2 billion a year to the Treasury, and NHS staff have already accepted responsibility for any future increases in costs due to improved longevity. The latest changes will see doctors paying up to 14.5 per cent of their salaries in pension contributions – twice as much as some other public sector staff on a similar salary in order to receive a similar pension. They will also have to work longer to receive their pension – up to 68 for younger doctors.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, 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.

“Non-urgent work will be postponed and, although this will be disruptive to the NHS, doctors will ensure patient safety is protected. All urgent and emergency care will be provided and we will work closely with managers so that anyone whose care is going to be affected can be given as much notice as possible. Patients do not need to do anything now.

“We will also run our own publicity campaign to make sure that members of the public understand what the action will involve and how they can find out what it might mean for them and their families.

“This is not a step that doctors take lightly – this is the first industrial action doctors have taken since 1975. We have consistently argued that the Government should reconsider its position, and even at this stage we would much prefer to negotiate a fairer deal than to take action. We are not seeking preferential treatment but fair treatment. The government’s wholesale changes to an already reformed NHS pension scheme cannot be justified.”


Notes to Editors

    2. For more information on the changes to the NHS pension scheme, the BMA ballots and the industrial action planned at:

    3. The BMA will tomorrow (Thursday 31 May) launch a microsite to help the public understand the industrial action planned and what it may mean for them and their families. There will also be advertisements in national newspapers and posters and other information materials for GP surgeries.
    4. Doctors in England and Wales, where the UK government has responsibility for the NHS pension scheme, would definitely be affected by these changes. In Scotland, the Scottish Government is holding talks with health trade unions, but are subject to UK Treasury constraints. In Northern Ireland, the health minister has said that he will follow the proposals set out by the UK Government. In both Scotland and Northern Ireland, both administrations imposed the increased pension contributions on health workers in April. The Public Services Pension Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, will apply across the UK.

    For further information please contact:
    British Medical Association
    BMA House
    Tavistock Square
    WC1H 9JP
    For out-of-hours press enquiries telephone : 020 7383 6254
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