Doctors: only days from strike action

DOCTORS are just one week away from their first strike in 40 years.

Following a ballot by the British Medical Association (BMA) of more than 100,000 doctors, industrial action will take place next Thursday (June 21).

This follows a disagreement on pension contributions and retirement age between the government and BMA.

Tom Berry, a general surgery registrar at the Victoria Infirmary, describes the decision as “very difficult”.

He told The Extra: “As doctors, we accept because of this day of action and perhaps subsequent days of action, we will have to carry out the backlog of work.

“We are doing this because of the weight of public opinion of BMA members”.

An urgent emergency care model will be in place on Thursday and a negotiating committee made up of local doctors will meet with hospitals to plan in advance and ensure there is no endangerment to public safety.

While routine clinics will be cancelled, urgent cases will be treated as normal.

GP practices will be open for their normal working hours, however, they may choose to only provide emergency or urgent appointments.

In a letter to the British Medical Association, health secretary Andrew Lansley claims the action will “at best inconvenience and at worst harm” patients.

Mr Berry continued: “Mr Lansley’s comments were disingenuous. Most people know somebody who works for the NHS. I think the public will look at the facts and understand the unfairness.

“The government has spoken of negotiations, but it has never felt like negotiation.

“They have been completely inflexible. They are going back on an agreement made in 2008”.

Then, the BMA, other health unions and the government negotiated a major reform of the NHS pension scheme, which all agreed made it fair and sustainable well into the future.

The most recent changes could see doctors paying up to 14.5 per cent of their salaries in pension contributions, which would be twice as much as some other public sector staff on similar salaries.

Young doctors could now have to work up to age 68 to receive their pension.