Doctors call for more strikes over pension reforms


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The Independent Online

Doctors have escalated their dispute with the Government over pension reforms by calling for more industrial action.

Another day of action could see doctors running a Christmas Day-style skeleton service with only emergency services operating.

At the British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Bournemouth, a large majority of delegates voted on a motion which said "further industrial action was necessary".

But they stepped back from demanding another day of action be called immediately.

Last week doctors took industrial action for the first time in almost four decades by boycotting non-urgent care.

The BMA announced the move after it accused ministers of pressing ahead with "totally unjustified" increases in pension contributions and a later retirement age for doctors.

Today doctors debated the pension reforms and the prospect of taking more action.

They proposed that further industrial action by the BMA should be co-ordinated with other unions to maximise its impact

Doctors urged BMA leaders - who are meeting this afternoon - to "consider a range of options in defence of our pensions" including "withdrawal from clinical commissioning activity" and "in secondary care, withdrawal of labour with emergency cover only".

Even though the motions were passed by delegates, under BMA rules only the council can authorise industrial action.

Proposing the motions, Dr Kevin O'Kane said: "If we want to protect our pensions, we need to stay united and have no choice but to take further industrial action.

"Mr Lansley, congratulations, you've driven doctors to take industrial action for the first time in 40 years, well done.

"We don't want to take this action, it doesn't come naturally to us, but be assured we are fast learners.

"Last Thursday we learnt that, for future days of action to be be effective, they need to be tailored by practice."

The action last week left thousands of patients unable to have a planned operation or see their specialist or GP.

Figures show the action last Thursday hit almost a fifth of GP practices.

Across the country, 2,703 operations were postponed and 18,717 outpatient appointments rescheduled, based on figures from strategic health authorities in England.