by Stanley Azuakola
For the first time in forty years, the British Medical Association (BMA) has decided to embark on a 24-hour strike on June 21.
The doctors are protesting a new plan, applicable to England and Wales but could be introduced elsewhere in the UK, under which the age at which doctors retire would rise from 65 to 68 by 2015. In addition to that, the contribution doctors have to make to their pension funds are also due to rise.
The British Medical Association said it was taking action ‘very reluctantly’ but attacked the government for going back on a deal on pensions agreed four years ago. Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: ‘We are taking this step very reluctantly, and would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution.’
In a BMA ballot of over a 104,000 members, 79% of GPs, 84% of hospital consultants, and 92% of junior doctors who responded voted in favour of the strike action.
In a letter printed in some national newspapers, the BMA said that, “On that day, doctors will be in their usual workplaces but providing urgent and emergency care only. We will be postponing non-urgent cases and although this will be disruptive to the NHS, rest assured, doctors will be there when our patients need us most and our action will not impact on your safety.”
It was important to explain, the letter said, that action was being taken “in order that our voice is heard by the government”, so that doctors could get fair – not preferential – treatment.
But Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “The public will not understand or sympathise with the BMA. People know that pension reform is needed as people live longer and to be fair in future for everyone.”
This is the first time the British Medical Association would be embarking on a nationwide strike since 1975.