UK Doctors to take industrial action for first time in almost 40 years

Doctors will take industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years over major changes to the NHS pension scheme, the BMA confirmed today (Wednesday 30 May, 2012). The first day of action will take place on 21 June 2012 and will see doctors providing all urgent and emergency care, but postponing non-urgent cases.

BMA Council made the decision after considering the results of its ballots on industrial action which closed yesterday. Overall, 50 per cent of the 104,544 doctors eligible to vote took part. Across separate ballots covering six branches of practice, a clear majority of: GPs; consultants; junior doctors; staff, associate specialist and speciality doctors, and public health and community health doctors said they were prepared to take part in both industrial action short of a strike and a strike, while a majority of occupational medicine doctors voted against industrial action.

Although the BMA's planned action does not constitute a strike as the term is normally understood by the public, the two questions were asked in order to provide maximum legal protection. Doctors will still be at their usual workplaces.

"We are taking this step very reluctantly, and would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution. But this clear mandate for action – on a very high turnout – reflects just how let down doctors feel by the government's unwillingness to find a fairer approach to the latest pension changes (...)
"Non-urgent work will be postponed and, although this will be disruptive to the NHS, doctors will ensure patient safety is protected. All urgent and emergency care will be provided and we will work closely with managers so that anyone whose care is going to be affected can be given as much notice as possible.
"This is not a step that doctors take lightly – this is the first industrial action doctors have taken since 1975 (...)and even at this stage we would much prefer to negotiate a fairer deal than to take action. We are not seeking preferential treatment but fair treatment."
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA

This article was provided upon courtesy of the British Medical Association.

The UEMS is aware that other national medical associations had to take similar actions and would appreciate receieving further information regarding these.