Chris Lancelot - Voting for industrial action is counterproductive to all GPs

Which way will you vote in the ballot? Clearly, the profession has a lot to be cross about. The pensions agreement, so carefully worked out four years ago, has been unilaterally discarded.

Our contributions will rise and most of us will have to work a further eight years before retiring. Hospital doctors will change from a final salary scheme to a career average system.

Our pensions mechanism is currently in surplus, so why change it? After all, a pension is in effect a delayed salary - something for which we have already worked.

Yet while I agree wholeheartedly with all these sentiments, I am equally sure that voting for industrial action isn't appropriate. The country is in a financial mess. It is only right that we should take our share of the pain.

In reality, we doctors are getting off lightly: we should be grateful we don't have to rely on a private pension which has collapsed to a quarter of its value, or on the non-existent interest on our lifetime's savings. Many outside the NHS now face an uncertain retirement because their careful financial planning has been wrecked by the economic downturn.

In any case, what sort of industrial action are we considering? Quite rightly the BMA has already ruled out a strike: it won't support anything which could put patients' lives at risk. But what other action could we take that wouldn't affect our patients' well-being?

Patients will suffer
Refuse to fill in government paperwork, perhaps? The only ones suffering would be the patients. If we decline to complete Med3s or benefit forms, sick patients will be deprived of financial support. If we won't co-operate with social workers then vulnerable children will be put at risk.

Clearly, minor industrial action like this won't force the government into an improved offer. It will however, hurt patients who know we are well paid, still have jobs and are being offered a much better pension deal than most of them could ever expect.

Any industrial action by doctors will both fail to extract any concessions from the government and lose the profession vast amounts of public goodwill for many years to come. Please join me in voting 'no'.

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