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Doctors are ready to go out on strike
PATIENTS will face disruption when doctors take industrial action for the first time in nearly 40 years over planned Government changes to NHS pensions.
The British Medical Association, a union representing the profession, revealed yesterday that the first day of action will be June 21, and will see doctors providing all urgent and emergency care, but postponing non-urgent cases.
This follows six ballots covering different branches of the practice, in which industrial action was backed by a clear majority of GPs, consultants, junior doctors, staff, associate specialist and speciality doctors, and public health and community health doctors.
A spokeswoman for the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Although this dispute is between the BMA and the Government, if strike action goes ahead, it is likely to involve some doctors working at the GWH who are members of the BMA.
“The trust will be developing plans to ensure that we can minimise any disruption to patient services in the event of any strike action that takes place.
“As always our priority will be to continue to maintain services to our patients where we can and ensure those services are delivered safely.”
The BMA says the NHS scheme currently delivers a positive cashflow of £2bn a year to the Treasury, and NHS staff have already accepted responsibility for any future increases in costs due to improved longevity.
The union says the latest changes will see doctors paying up to 14.5 per cent of their salaries in pension contributions – twice as much as some other public sector staff on a similar salary in order to receive a similar pension.
They will also have to work longer to receive their pension – up to 68 for younger doctors.
Dr Peter Swinyard, a senior partner at the Phoenix Surgery, in Toothill, who voted in favour of the action, said doctors were already paying substantial amounts in tax and pension contributions, and described the proposed contributions increase as an unfair tax on doctors.
“My feeling is Swindon is fairly typical of the profession in that we’re there to look after our patients first and we will never do anything that will damage our patients’ healthcare,” he said.
“But we must say to the Government ‘You have gone a step too far, you must come back to the negotiating table and talk to us, or we will make life really difficult for you if you don’t, at a time when you need us to make the Health and Social Care Bill work’.”
He stressed action would probably see GPs boycott Government forms, but in a worst-case scenario, surgeries would still be open for emergency care, but routine consultations would be unavailable.
Debra Elliott, director of commissioning development for NHS Swindon, said: “As a commissioner, we have a responsibility to ensure patients can access the health services they need.
“We don’t yet know how many GPs will be on strike, but we are monitoring the situation, and working with local doctors and the LMC, to ensure contingency plans are put in place where required, and that any disruption is kept to a minimum.
“As with any weekend or public holiday, patients will be able to access urgent care by phoning the Swindon Out of Hours Service on 01793 646466.”