How GPs will back pensions industrial action

Abi Rimmer talks to GPs to find out why they have decided to support the first BMA industrial action in 40 years.

Doctors have argued proposed changes to NHS pensions are unfair
Doctors have argued proposed changes to NHS pensions are unfair

On 21 June, for the first time in nearly 40 years, GPs and other BMA members will take part in industrial action.

Doctors have argued that proposed changes to NHS pensions - increased contributions of up to 14.5% and a raised pension age of up to 68 for new entrants to the scheme - are unfair.

BMA leaders argue that the NHS pension scheme is affordable, delivering an annual surplus of £2bn to the Treasury. They have also hit out at a fresh attack on pensions so soon after major reforms were agreed in 2008.

A deadlock in talks with the government prompted last month's ballot on industrial action, which found that 78% of 17,561 GPs who took part backed industrial action.

Doctors across the NHS, including GPs, plan to provide emergency-only services on 21 June. GP spoke to a number of GPs about what they would be doing on the day and whether they support the action.

Emergencies only
City and East London LMC chairman Dr Kambiz Boomla said all GPs at his practice were planning to take part in industrial action, and other local practices would do the same.

'We will all be present at the practice, but we will not have any booked appointments,' Dr Boomla said. 'We will deal with emergencies. We'll let patients know by putting up posters.'

Dr Boomla said it was important for doctors to protest against changes to public sector pensions. 'If we lose on pensions, we will lose on everything else,' he warned.

South London GP Dr Louise Irvine, elected to BMA Council in April, said: 'We are all going to work but only seeing urgent cases. We will see anyone who feels they need to see a doctor, so we don't think patients will suffer at all.'

INDUSTRIAL ACTION
  • GPs taking part should have contacted their PCO, advising what action they plan to take.
  • The BMA will provide posters and leaflets to help practices inform patients why GPs are taking action.
  • The BMA has advised GPs to cancel routine appointments for 21 June.
  • On the day, GPs taking part will only see patients who are, or who consider themselves, an emergency.

Dr Irvine said it was important for GPs to protest against changes that would hit young GPs the hardest.

At some practices, not all GPs backed industrial action. Devon LMC chairman Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said in his practice, some GPs would cancel booked appointments and only see emergencies, while others would be working as normal.

Dr Sanford-Wood admitted that the split raised a question about the kind of message this would send to patients. GPs taking part believe it is an important point of principle, he said. 'I am one of the doctors taking industrial action. I would be very happy to explain to any patient why I am taking action.'

East London GP Dr Jonathan Tomlinson was among the minority of GPs who voted against industrial action.

He argues the BMA could have chosen a better way of expressing anger over pension reform. 'GPs could have been obstructive over commissioning, or refused to use Choose and Book,' he said.

Dr Tomlinson said his practice would operate as normal on 21 June, but try to raise patients' awareness of why doctors elsewhere were taking action.

GPs' support for action

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood

I am one of the doctors taking industrial action. I would be very happy to explain to any patient why I am taking action.

Dr Louise Irvine

We are all going to work but only seeing urgent cases. We will see anyone who feels they need to see a doctor, so we don't think patients will suffer at all.

Dr Kambiz Boomla

We will all be present at the practice, we will deal with emergencies. We will let patients know by putting up posters. If we lose on pensions, we will lose on everything else.

Abi Rimmer recommends

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