Non-urgent NHS cases postponed as doctors strike over pension reform

First industrial action for 37 years

Doctors have voted to take industrial action for the first time in 37 years in protest against pension reform.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has confirmed that following a ballot earlier this month, the first day of action will take place on June 21.

Doctors will still provide all urgent and emergency care, and will be at their usual workplaces, but non-urgent cases will be postponed.

The BMA said that half of the 104,544 doctors eligible to vote did so, of which a “clear majority” said they were prepared to take part in both industrial action short of a strike, and a strike.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the council at the BMA, said the organisation is taking this step “very reluctantly” and would prefer to negotiate a “fairer” deal with the Government than take action.

He said: “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.”

He added that the BMA will work closely with managers to ensure that anyone whose care is affected is given as much notice as possible.

NHS Employers, which represents employers within the NHS, said it was “disappointed” with the BMA’s decision.

Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: "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.

“Doctors will now work locally with NHS trusts to assess the impact on local services and to consider the important question of communication with patients and public.”

He added: "We know that doctors are anxious about changes to their pensions. But no one wants to see patients dragged into the argument."

Secretary of State Andrew Lansley said: “The public will not understand or sympathise with the BMA’s call for industrial action over their pensions.

“People know that pension reform is needed as people live longer and to be fair in future for everyone. We have been clear that the NHS pension scheme is, and will remain, one of the best available anywhere."

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