1. ITV Report

Doctors on strike

Doctors are taking action over changes to their pensions Photo: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Doctors across the Westcountry are taking industrial action today for the first time in almost 40 years.

It's over changes to their pensions.

Members of the British Medical Association, which represents around two thirds of doctors, will still provide urgent and emergency care but hundreds of patients have had their non-urgent appointments cancelled.

Those taking part in the action include GPs, consultants, junior doctors, public health and community health doctors. Credit: Andrew Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Government's pension changes will see doctors having to put aside 14.5% of their salary to fund their index-linked pension, rather than the current 8.5%; and the age at which they will able to draw their full pension will rise by two years.

This is not a step that doctors take lightly – this is the first industrial action doctors have taken since 1975. We have consistently argued that the Government should reconsider its position, we would much prefer to negotiate a fairer deal than to take action. We are not seeking preferential treatment but fair treatment. The Government’s wholesale changes to an already reformed NHS pension scheme cannot be justified.

– Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA

All the major hospitals through the Westcountry region have told us they are working closely with staff to ensure that the impact of industrial action is kept to a minimum and that patient safety and care quality is maintained. They say all patients who need urgent or emergency treatment will receive this, including all inpatient and outpatient cancer treatments. Inpatients in hospital should also receive the normal level of care.

But across the region hundreds of outpatient appointments and operations have been cancelled as a result of the doctors' action. All patients affected should have been contacted and alternative arrangements made.

Due to very constructive conversations with our clinical staff, on Thursday we will continue to treat all patients requiring urgent and emergency care as normal.

We also anticipate being able to treat more than 90% of our patients who come in for planned operations, procedures and appointments as normal.

As part of our joint planning, we have asked doctors to notify us if they intend to take industrial action and this has enabled us to plan effectively and contact any non-urgent patients who are affected by changes.

All patients who have an appointment or procedure booked with us should come in as planned unless notified otherwise. We are notifying any patients whose planned appointments or procedures cannot go ahead and rearranging their appointments for another day.

So if you do have an appointment, please attend as normal unless you hear from us directly. We would like to thank patients for their understanding with this event.”

– Richard Best, Chief Operating Officer for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

All emergency and urgent health care services will continue as normal at the Royal Devon & Exeter.

We have assessed the anticipated impact of industrial action on our services and re-scheduled only 129 outpatient clinic appointments out of the daily 1,244 normal activity and about 25 non-urgent surgical procedures, some of which have been done ahead of the day of action.

Unless patients have been contacted by us they should keep their appointments for this day.

– Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust

At the moment we do not know exactly what impact industrial action will have on this hospital, however, we feel it’s important that we do what we can to keep disruption to a minimum for our patients.

We will be putting in place a number of measures that we used effectively during the day of action last November. This includes the rescheduling of some non urgent operations and outpatient appointments. Unless patients have been contacted by us we would ask them to attend their appointments and operations as planned.

– Nick Macklin, Musgrove Park Hospital , Taunton
Hundreds of patients could be left waiting by the action. Credit: ITV Westcountry

You can watch Jacquie Bird's report on the doctors' Day of Action here: