Doctors would take industrial action over pensions

A doctor
Image caption Two-thirds of doctors are prepared to take industrial action, the BMA says

Doctors have rejected government plans to change their pensions and say they would be prepared to take industrial action to protect their benefits.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says two thirds of members are ready to take some form of action over plans to ask them to pay in more.

Of 130,000 doctors and medical students surveyed, 46,000 replied.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the pension scheme was "excellent" and there was "no justification" to strike.

A decision on whether to hold a ballot for industrial action will be taken next month.

Of those who responded to the survey, 84% said the government's proposals should be rejected.

Almost two-thirds (63%) said they would be prepared to take industrial action to force changes to the proposals.

More than a third (36%) of doctors aged 50 and over said they would retire early if the changes came in.

The BMA said the government's plans would mean many doctors having to work longer before they could retire.

'Serious concerns'

It has written to ministers to formally reject the offer and ask for talks.

The survey's results were considered by the BMA Council, the association's governing body.

Should doctors vote in favour of industrial action, the BMA said attempts would be made to ensure the risk of harm to patients would be kept to a minimum.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA Council, said: "The strength and scale of feeling among doctors is abundantly clear - they feel let down and betrayed, and for many this is the final straw."

He said doctors were helping save the NHS billions, were in the midst of reform in England and faced a fourth year of pay freezes.

"Now on top of this, they are facing wholesale changes to their pension scheme, which was radically overhauled less than four years ago and is actually delivering a positive cash flow to the Treasury.

"Forcing doctors to work to almost 70 is one of our most serious concerns as it could put pressure on doctors to work beyond the age at which they feel competent and safe."

He said industrial action remained a "last resort" and that the action, "unprecedented" in recent years, showed the level of discontent among staff.

But in letter to Dr Meldrum, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS scheme was "amongst the best available anywhere".

"Doctors within 10 years of their expected retirement will get the same pension they expected, when they expected it," he said.

"Doctors can typically expect to receive around £4 in benefits for every £1 of contributions. You will understand why I believe this is an excellent deal."

He said industrial action would harm patients and there was "no justification" for it.

The public would neither accept nor understand how you can sign up to an excellent deal and walk away "on the strength of an informal survey to which less than 36% of all your members responded", he added.

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