BMA council to meet next week to discuss next step in pensions dispute

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 22 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4350
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

The BMA council will meet on Thursday 28 June to discuss the effect of yesterday’s industrial action by doctors and whether to take any further steps over government plans to alter their pension scheme.

A council meeting will be held immediately after the BMA’s annual representatives meeting ends in Bournemouth on Thursday. The meeting’s first task is to elect a new chairman of the BMA council to replace Hamish Meldrum and then hold a special session on the pension dispute.

Further action that could be considered includes a repeat of this week’s industrial action, when doctors came to work but only saw patients if they needed urgent care and in which many routine and elective procedures were cancelled. The BMA could also decide to disengage from the government’s NHS reform agenda, which requires doctors, particularly GPs, to take a leading role in the new clinical commissioning groups.

Asked at the annual meeting of the NHS Confederation in Manchester on Wednesday 20 June what his reaction would be if, rather than withdrawing routine care in a further day of action, doctors decided to refuse to engage in the reforms and with CCGs in particular, the health secretary for England, Andrew Lansley, said, “It would be even more perverse, if that’s possible, than the current action. The current action has the risk of damaging services for patients tomorrow. Not engaging in clinical commissioning runs the risk of damaging services for patients for a long time to come.”

Lansley told the press briefing in Manchester that he was willing to sit down at the table with the BMA and discuss the pensions issue but that any discussions would have to include representatives of unions of other workers in the NHS pension scheme. The NHS pension scheme covers everyone working in the NHS, from porters to managers and all clinical staff.

“I have told [the BMA] they can come and sit round the table, but what they have to do, however, is come together with the other NHS trade unions, because I will not have a situation where they threaten industrial action and then they expect some kind of concessions as a consequence of that,” said Lansley at the NHS Confederation meeting.

“We will implement the deal that we have set out. For years two and three there are changes in contribution rates which are not as yet set, so they could get together with the other trade unions and agree a different proposal on contribution rates, but they would have to do it together, because I will not advantage doctors and consequently disadvantage nurses and other professions.”

The Department of Health said that around 11 500 NHS doctors in England—just over 8%—participated in the day of action. In hospitals this meant that around 2700 elective operations (9% of the total) and around 18 750 outpatient appointments (9.4%) were cancelled and rescheduled.

Some routine appointments were available at 6000 GP surgeries (75%); the other 25% of surgeries provided only urgent appointments.

Meldrum said that as doctors had been in their usual place of work it was extremely difficult to put an exact figure on the number who had taken part in the action and that the government’s figures needed to be treated with “extreme caution.”

He said, “Our feedback from the doctors coordinating the action on the ground indicates that in England up to a quarter of non-urgent cases have been postponed and that around a third of GP practices have been taking some form of action.

“Our intention has not been to maximise the impact on patients but to communicate the scale of doctors’ anger and to encourage the government back to the table. Doctors have sent a strong message that a fairer approach must be found.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4350

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