Two thirds of patients oppose GP industrial action over pensions

Two thirds of patients do not support GPs taking part in industrial action against changes to the NHS pension scheme, a survey has found.

Simon Burns: ‘It is increasingly clear that the public simply cannot understand how the BMA can risk patient safety.'
Simon Burns: ‘It is increasingly clear that the public simply cannot understand how the BMA can risk patient safety.'

A YouGov survey of 1,546 people found that 62% of people of were opposed to doctors taking industrial action over pension changes. Nearly a third of people (28%) however said they supported the action and 10% said they didn’t know.

The poll asked if people believed that the pensions doctors receive are too high, too low, or about right. Two fifths (40%) of people said that thought that doctors pensions were ‘about right’. A third 33% said they were too high and 23% of people said they didn’t know.

Participants were also asked how well paid they thought doctors were. Over 90% said they thought doctors were fairly well or very well paid. And just 4% believed that doctors were badly paid.

When asked whether doctors should have the right to strike, opinion was evenly split, with 48% of people saying they should have the right to strike and 45% said they shouldn’t.

Reacting to the results, health minister Simon Burns said: ‘We have consistently said that the BMA should prioritise patient care over its pay packets and this poll shows that the public agrees. 62% of people oppose the BMA’s plans for a strike and just 4% think that the pensions doctors receive are too low.

‘It is increasingly clear that the public simply cannot understand how the BMA can risk patient safety with unjustified strikes and cannot sympathise with doctors who will continue to receive an extremely generous pension worth £68,000 a year.

‘The public are right to condemn these strikes and they have every right to be angry at the confusion from senior Labour politicians on this important issue.’

The BMA will hold a day of industrial action on 21 June. GPs taking apart will cancel booked appointments and routine clinics but attend their practice and see all emergency patients.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'We did not expect that all members of the public would be sympathetic but we hope they can understand why, and be rather appalled that, we have been brought to this point. A doctor’s first duty is always to his or her patients, and their safety is our top priority. 

'The BMA is working with NHS managers to ensure a safe service is provided, but we accept that there will be inconvenience for patients, which we regret. Doctors are taking this action very reluctantly, and will happily call it off if the Government returns to meaningful negotiations.'

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