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31-05-2012 | Article

BMA defends 21 June action

Abstract

BMA Open letter

MedWire News: The BMA has defended its decision to hold a day of industrial action over pensions on 21 June. In an open letter published in the national press, Chair of BMA Council Dr Hamish Meldrum writes: "We feel it is important to explain why are taking this action and what impact it is likely to have on your experience of the health service."

The move was seen as a rebuttal to widespread criticism of doctors in national newspapers including The Independent after the BMA called the action. The letter assures the public that although the postponement of non-urgent cases will be disruptive to the NHS, "doctors will be there when our patients need us most and our action will not impact on your safety".

And it outlines the BMA's position that doctors already agreed to major pension reforms in 2008 and that the current scheme is "fair and sustainable", whereas the proposed changes will mean doctors working up to the age of 68 and contributing up to 14.5% of their salary, "twice as much as civil servants on the same pay".

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that "the public will not understand or sympathise" with the action, and Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter announced he is resigning from the BMA over the decision, saying the action would "do more harm than good" (click here).

The Labour party also withdrew support for the BMA's stance, with shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham urging doctors not to take part in disruption of non-urgent care and calling on the BMA "to follow other routes in making clear the substance of their disagreement".

But Dr Kailash Chand, GP and former BMA Council member, argued in The Guardian that BMA members' vote for action is not only about pensions but also "reflects the anger doctors feel towards this Government in terms of undermining and dismantling public services".

And, he writes: "The idea that a doctor could be working until state retirement age, which is already scheduled to rise to 68, and could go even higher, is ridiculous. It will be wholly unsafe for some doctors to work late into their 60s and in some specialities this might be potentially harmful to patients."

MedWire News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price