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
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Corporate Tax Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

    Relationship Manager

    £500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

    Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

    £15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

    Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

    £250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home