Disappointingly, but entirely predictably, it’s started. As in previous disputes with the medical profession, the government and media have been trying to discredit our extremely fair case by misrepresenting us as fat cats. So within hours of news that over eight in 10 BMA members aren’t happy with the attack on their pensions, doctors were being dismissed by government sources as 'millionaires' in front-page newspaper stories.
The BMA position
There was also an entirely disingenuous claim from the health secretary that the BMA had accepted the government’s offer in December, and the decision to reject it now somehow represented a change of position. This is nonsense – all we agreed to was that we would put the offer to our membership – and I’ve written to Andrew Lansley to say so.
As you’d expect us to, the BMA has been rebutting this stuff in the media – writing to the papers to set the record straight, proactively briefing journalists, and putting our case on TV and radio. However, the fact is that we can expect much worse in the weeks to come.
GPs are perhaps more used to it than other sectors of the profession, having put up for years with stories about greedy GPs casually giving up their out-of-hours commitments for an enormous pay rise. As one of my colleagues has pointed out, while we will continue to work tirelessly to set straight some of the nonsense that is spouted about our pensions, it might be a little optimistic to expect to win the media war.
Similarly, I’d advise you to take what you might read about industrial action – and any form it might take – with a pinch of salt. The current situation is this: we want the government to come back to the table; in the event that an acceptable way forward cannot be reached through negotiation, BMA Council will decide on the options for balloting on industrial action.
We are in the process of putting together plans for action that would minimise the risk of harm to patients. However, we would far prefer to negotiate a fair way forward. So let’s see whether the government drops the mudslinging and agrees to return to the table. Until then, it’s premature to be speculating on what the next steps will be.