So for the first time in three decades, doctors have voted to take industrial action. The issue, their pensions.
They say doctors will have to work longer (to 68) and pay more (14.5 per cent of salary for senior doctors) for their pensions. The "final salary" scheme is to be replaced by a "career average" pension.
The vote is emphatically in favour of strike action:
- 63 per cent of GPs
- 73 per cent of consultants
- 81 per cent of junior doctors
Two huge "buts" here.
First the turnout was 51 per cent.
That's not bad for a ballot on industrial action but the BMA Council, which is meeting today to consider what action to take, might just decide it's not enough to go ahead. I doubt it.
Second, the "strike" they voted for is very limited. Doctors will turn up at work as usual. They will handle all emergency and urgent cases. They will not treat patients when it is not urgent. In advance, they will postpone those appointments. So go to A+E and you WILL get treated. Go to your GPs for a travel vaccination and you'll be given an appointment for later.
Doctors feel strongly about their pensions being slashed as they see it, but clearly don't want to take any action that would alienate public support. The government says OK, your pension won't be as good but the country is facing financial problems and the population is getting older and older.
Everyone will have to share the pain and doctors will still be retiring at 68 on a pension of £50,000 which is not too shoddy.