Doctors threaten first strike in 40 years – over £48,000 pensions

BMA to hold ballot next month as Government asks members to work longer for less money

Doctors' leaders escalated their dispute with the Government over planned changes to their pensions yesterday after a British Medical Association survey showed almost two out of three would back some form of industrial action.

But the ruling BMA council declined to order an immediate ballot of its 130,000 members until an emergency meeting on 25 February. Instead, it settled for a formal letter to the Government rejecting its latest offer and demanding the reopening of negotiations. It said it would "work up detailed plans on taking industrial action". Last month, the BMA accepted that the Government had made its "final" offer and that talks had gone "as far as they can".

The announcement came as the Royal College of Nursing declared it was moving to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill, citing concerns about privatisation and staffing levels, and the head of the BMA warned of a "perfect storm" heading for the NHS, with rising waiting lists and "impossible" efficiency savings, in an interview in the New Statesman.

The pensions dispute is over changes that will see doctors pay more in contributions, work longer and receive less, in line with Government proposals for all public-sector pensions.

The BMA calculates that a doctor aged 25 today who becomes a consultant will pay more than £240,000 extra over a lifetime and work eight years longer (from the current retirement age of 60 to 68) to receive an annual pension of £70,000. But the average pension in the public sector is about £7,000 and senior doctors know there would be little public support for a BMA-led dispute.

The committee chairman Dr Tom Black said recently: "It's not going to be pleasant and we won't come out looking like knights in shining armour. That's our job, this is the BMA, and our job is to fight for the members."

The last time doctors went on strike was in the 1970s over junior doctors' working conditions. Consultants also worked to rule in protest at a government plan to remove private patient beds from hospitals. The BMA has threatened action several times since but has always stopped short of taking it.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of BMA Council said: "Forcing doctors to work to almost 70 is one of our most serious concerns as it could put pressure on doctors to work beyond the age at which they feel competent and safe. The Government must urgently reconsider its damaging plans."

But a Department of Health spokesman said: "Under the current scheme, a typical consultant retiring at 60 will receive a pension of £48,000 a year for life. In addition, they will receive a tax-free lump sum of around £143,000 – this equates to a pension pot of over £1.7m in the private sector. This is unsustainable."

* Hospital finances will be assessed by credit-rating agencies, like those that keep downgrading eurozone countries, under plans proposed by Monitor, the NHS regulator. Hospitals that fail to reach minimum levels will lose their licence to operate.

Pensions row: Where the unions stand

Royal College of Nursing To ballot all its members on whether to accept the Government's pension reforms. Result due 28 February.

GMB Still negotiating with local government employers over changes to council workers' pension scheme.

Unite Has rejected proposals on the local government, health and civil service schemes. Consulting members on next move.

Public and Commercial Services Union Has rejected all plans for reforming civil servant pensions. No longer part of talks.

NUT Along with the other teaching unions the NASUWT, UCU and UCAC, it has not "signed up" to the heads of agreement document. Now consulting its members on the next move.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers Along with the ASCL, NAHT and Voice, the ATL is consulting its members on the agreement put forward in December. The result is expected by the end of this month.

Unison Still in negotiations with its executives, and due to discuss next steps today.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

    £27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most