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07-05-2012 | Article

BMA moves forward on pension ballot


NHS Pensions Reform

Medwire News: The British Medical Association has written to all NHS employers giving official notification of its pension ballot, which will run from 14 to 29 May.

The ballot will ask two questions: whether doctors are willing to take part in industrial action short of a strike, and whether they are willing to take part in a strike - with the BMA urging members to vote "yes" to both questions.

If passed, it will be the first industrial action by doctors in 40 years. BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: "This is an historic moment for doctors. We are seeking a mandate to take industrial action for the first time since 1975, to send a clear message to government that their changes are unnecessary and that a fairer way forward should be found."

Although the BMA has ruled out taking full strike action, it nevertheless says that the law relating to doctors is "complex and untested". The questions in the ballot have been designed to maximise legal protection, as has further detailed guidance detailing what GPs should and should not do during any action.

The guidance emphasises the primacy of patient safety and states that GPs will still be responsible for providing urgent and emergency clinical care, and for handling urgent administrative tasks.

However, doctors should not undertake work that can be safety postponed, such as nonurgent elective work, and will be asked to postpone routine appointments. Doctors should decide their clinical priorities on any day of action, the guidance states, and obtain advice, where necessary, from clinical managers and senior doctors.

Ballot papers will be posted on May 14 and BMA Council will meet on May 30 to discuss the results and what action to take.

Dr Meldrum added: "We understand that this is a difficult decision for many doctors, but if they are willing to take the action we propose, they should vote 'yes/yes' in the ballot. The most important thing, however, is that members vote, whatever their views."

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

By Joanna Lyford