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19
Jul

BMA puts industrial action on hold


The British Medical Association (BMA) on Thursday announced that it is suspending plans for further industrial action and is joining other health unions in talks with the government about the detail of the changes to the NHS pension scheme.



Council also agreed to step up campaigning to achieve improvements in the longer term, particularly around the increase in retirement age.

The decision was taken at Wednesday’s meeting of BMA Council – the association’s governing body – to determine next steps following the day of industrial action taken by doctors on 21 June.

Since then, the government has written to health unions to begin talks to review the impact of working longer and consider the proposed increases to contributions in years two and three and how tiered contributions relate to these. Council agreed that no further industrial action will be planned at this stage and the BMA willtake part in these talks. While the first increases in contributions were made in April 2012, the other major changes – increasing the retirement age to 68 and ending the final salary scheme – will be introduced starting from 2015.

Commenting after the Council meeting, Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council said: “Last month’s action enabled thousands of doctors to send a strong and clear message to government about how let down they felt, while also honouring their commitment to protect patient safety. Independent research by Ipsos MORI shows that the public were more likely to support doctors in the dispute than thegovernment, and that the majority were confident about our commitment to protect their safety above all else.

“Industrial action was never our preferred way forward. We would always far prefer to seek changes to the government’s plans for NHS pensions through negotiation and lobbying, rather than taking action that could jeopardise the much valued relationship with our patients.

“We always said that we would review our action in order to determine next steps. Having done that, it is clear that only escalated action has any possibility of causing the government to rethink its whole programme of changes. The BMA and the profession as a whole are unwilling to do that at this point because of the impact on patients.

“We will not, therefore, plan any further action at this stage and will take part in the talks the government has offered on the detail of the pension changes. But while the scope of the talks remains limited, Council also decided to step up campaigning activities, particularly around the move to link the normal pension age for all NHS staff to the state pension age, currently moving to 68 and potentially to go further. There are already precedents for front line staff in the public sector, such as the police, to have lower retirement ages because of the nature of their work.

“Doctors’ anger with the government for tearing up a pensions deal reached only four years ago and which made the scheme sustainable for the future will not just go away. We have not ruled out taking further industrial action in the future and we are committed to continuing to fight for a fairer deal in the longer term.”

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