GPs back industrial action over pension reforms
By Abi Rimmer, 30 May 2012
A total of 78% of GPs have backed industrial action over pensions on a turn-out of 53%.
63% of the 17,561 GPs who voted in the ballot, voted yes to taking strike action and 78% backed taking industrial action short of a strike. The number of GPs who voted represented 53% of the total GP BMA membership.
Although the BMA does not plan a strike, for example a withdrawal of labour, for legal reasons members who wanted to take action had to agree to both industrial and strike action. This means in practice that non-urgent care could be stopped with practices remaining open for urgent care.
The percentage of GPs who voted in favour of action was lower than other specialty groups.
Over 70% of the 18,721 consultants who took part voted yes/yes, while 82% of the 12,060 junior doctors who took part voted in favour of both strike and industrial action.
The BMA Council meets today to consider the results and discuss next steps. A decision is expected early this afternoon. Keep an eye on GPonline.com for breaking news about what it decides.
Reaction to the result
Director of the NHS Employers organisation Dean Royles urged the BMA Council to ‘put patients first’ and ‘do the right thing for patients’ when making a decision.
He said: ‘As the BMA Council now meet I really want them to put patients at the centre of their decision making. They know that any industrial action will impact on care and cause distress and disruption to patients and undermine trust and confidence in the medical profession.
‘We know that doctors are anxious about changes to their pensions. But no one wants to see patients dragged into the argument.
‘Industrial action could potentially mean delays to treatment. It would be particularly distressing for patients and extremely worrying for staff who are dedicated to putting patients first.
‘It's a tough decision for the BMA Council but they should do the right thing for patients.
‘If they do decide to call doctors out on strike then the more notice employers get of this the more robust our contingency plans will be.’
Deputy chairman of last week's LMCs conference and Hertfordshire GP Dr Mike Ingram, said he would ‘personally’ be uncomfortable with going on strike and refused to disclose how he voted, saying it was a ‘private ballot’.
He called for a form of industrial action that would ‘hurt government without hurting patients’ but was unable to give any examples of what this could be.
Dr Ingram said: ‘It has to be some form of industrial action short of going on full time strike, something that would disrupt government and bureaucratic functions.
‘There is a unity of purpose. The BMA have done an incredible job. The results do show that the profession is together.
‘I am surprised that 63% of GPs voted in favour and it shows that pensions is the final straw. Pensions is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
‘We are having money stolen from us that we had put away for our retirement. It comers at a time when GPs are under increasing pressure and workload and the whole environment is anti-GP. Any ballot of a workforce that is becoming demoralised is going to react in a more forceful way.’
Doctors last took industrial action in 1975.
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