BMA ballots hospital doctors in Scotland over further industrial action

BMA Scotland is set to ballot hospital doctors in Scotland on further industrial action over pensions.

Dr Morrison: 'disappointing' that further action has to be considered
Dr Morrison: 'disappointing' that further action has to be considered

BMA Scotland has said that a second ballot of hospital doctors in Scotland on industrial action is due happen in November, if the Scottish government does not deliver a ‘genuine alternative’ to the changes to the UK-wide NHS pension scheme.

The Scottish government has authority to amend some aspects of the NHS pension scheme in Scotland, including employee contribution levels.

The UK BMA Council gave permission for the ballot to go ahead for hospital doctors in Scotland but the Scottish GPC asked for GPs to be excluded from the ballot.

Chairman of GPC Scotland Dr Alan McDevitt has written to all BMA member GPs in Scotland, explaining why GPs will not be balloted. GP understands that Dr McDevitt said that the mandate from GPs was not as clear as the one from hospital doctors.

If the hospital doctors vote for more action in the ballot the first day of action is planned to take place on 12 December 2012. The BMA has said that further industrial action could happen on 8 January 2013 and 17 January 2013. The result of the ballot will be considered at a meeting of the BMA’s UK Council on 28 November 2012.

The BMA will ask hospital doctors in Scotland whether they are willing to take strike action with emergency only cover, a stronger form of action than that taken previously.

This would be for an initial 24-hour period, followed by further 24-hour periods. Doctors would not go to their normal place of work and would not be performing any work, except for fulfilling their emergency duties.

Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of BMA Scotland's consultants committee, said: ‘It is disappointing that we are considering further, stronger industrial action on the issue of pensions but we believe that this is the only way we can get the Scottish government to listen to us.

'They agree that the increase in NHS staff contributions to their pensions is unjust and describe it as a "short term cash-grab" yet they offer no alternative. They say they are negotiating with us in good faith, yet they have been unable to provide clarity on the scope of these negotiations or come up with any genuine alternative to the English proposals. This is a government that is talking up its opposition, but failing to deliver on these words.

‘We recognise that our disagreement is with the Scottish government, not our patients and for that reason we are giving NHS employers very advance notice of our possible days of action. The action we propose would mean that doctors would not attend their place of work unless they are covering emergencies.

'Doctors would be seeing patients with emergencies as normal and, as GPs are not taking part in the ballot, general practice would be working as usual on the day. By giving the NHS plenty of notice of our action, health boards would have plenty of time to organise their rotas and surgical lists accordingly.’

This comes after the BMA UK Council decided in July to suspend further industrial action and join other health unions in talks with the UK government. These talks aimed to discuss the detail of the changes to the NHS pension scheme in England and Wales, as well as to step up campaigning for improvements, particularly on the normal pension age.

Commenting on the BMA Scotland's plans, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: 'It is disappointing that the BMA in Scotland is balloting for further and more serious industrial action when the they are actively involved in ongoing discussions on this issue.

'The Scottish Government has demonstrated willingness to work in partnership with NHS trade unions to find a way forward on pensions issues within the ever tighter constraints imposed on us by Westminster.'

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