Doctors have voted in favour of taking industrial action in a dispute with the government over reforms to their pensions. Non-urgent treatment will not be performed for 24 hours on June 21, and further action has not been ruled out.
The British Medical Association (BMA) already ruled out a complete withdrawal of labour. They say they are taking action "very reluctantly" but attacked the Government for going back on a deal on pensions agreed four years ago.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has condemned the decision, saying the public will not understand or sympathise.
He said the pension scheme available to doctors is, and will remain, one of the best available anywhere.
The BMA Council made the decision after considering the results of its ballots on industrial action which showed 50% of the 104,544 doctors eligible to vote took part.
The result of the ballot was:
- Consultants 73%
- GPs 63%
- Junior doctors 82%
52,250 votes were cast giving a turnout of 51%.
The BMA has published further detail of the results on its website.
BMA members overwhelmingly rejected what the Government called its "final offer" in December last year.
The last time doctors took industrial action was in 1975 when consultants suspended all non-essestial activity and worked to contract. Junior doctors also worked to a 40-hour week.
The current dispute evolved because:
- The BMA says higher paid NHS staff already pay proportionately more for their pensions than most other public sector workers
- It claims by 2014, some doctors will see deductions of 14.5% from their pay
- That compares with 7.35% for senior civil servants on similar salaries, according to the British Medical Association
Hospital Consultant Richard Marks says he will not be joining the strike because he does not believe the action will have any effect, and he thinks it is "morally wrong."
The NHS Employers organisation condemned the strike, saying it was wrong to "drag patients into the argument."
They said the stoppage will result in delays in delays in treatment for patients.
Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union welcomed the decision to strike, saying:
Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the decision by the British Medical Association showed the strength of feeling against the Government's pension reforms.
However he urged but doctors to "pull back" from taking any action that could impact patient care.