Doctors’ strike affects East Anglia’s hospitals and GP surgeries

PUBLISHED: 18:29 21 June 2012 | UPDATED: 10:00 22 June 2012

Hospital doctors were among BMA members taking part in the industrial action.

Hospital doctors were among BMA members taking part in the industrial action.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

More than a quarter of GP practices were affected by doctors taking industrial action, it has emerged.

Q&A - why doctors are striking over pensions

What are doctors protesting about?

The Government wants to change their pensions so that many will have to work longer and contribute more of their salary to their pension scheme.

There would be a switch from a final salary scheme to a career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme for hospital doctors (GPs already have CARE pensions) from April 2015.

Why have doctors rejected the proposed pension reforms?

The BMA says NHS staff agreed to major reforms just four years ago to ensure their pension scheme is not a drain on taxpayers, and despite the economic downturn not altering that, it says the Government wants to go back on that deal. Doctors also argue they are being unfairly targeted by pointing out that the top-paid civil servants will not be hit in the same way.

What is the Government’s argument for changing the pensions?

It says the average hospital consultant retiring today will enjoy a pension of £48,000 a year and a lump sum of over £140,000.

Among public-sector pensions being paid out, doctors account for two-thirds of the top 1pc of pay outs.

As a result, this government - and the Labour one that preceded it and reformed pensions in 2008 - has taken the judgement that it wants the best-paid to subsidise the pensions of the lowest.

Will doctors who strike get paid?

Health trusts have to decide whether or not to dock the pay of doctors who will only treat those in urgent need.

NHS Norfolk does not pay GPs directly, rather it pays practices for the services they are contracted to provider.

It said it had no plans to dock pay, but it would continue to monitor the service provision available on Thursday and review the issue afterwards.

GP practices will make their own decisions about the pay of GPs who do choose to go on strike.

How many doctors will be taking part in the strike?

Up to 100,000 doctors who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA) could go on strike, but a poll by Pulse magazine has revealed that almost three-quarters of GP practices will reportedly open as normal.

According to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the planned strike could see up to 30,000 operations cancelled, 58,000 diagnostic tests postponed and 200,000 outpatient appointments rescheduled.

Mr Lansley also said up to 1.25 million GP appointments would be pushed into the days and weeks following the action.

In Norfolk and Waveney, 33 of the total 117 practices were today offering modified services as some members of the British Medical Association (BMA) only took on urgent or emergency cases in protest over the Government’s controversial pension reforms.

NHS Norfolk and Waveney said it had only been informed of 32 individual GPs taking part in the strike, but said the total figure for the area was likely to be higher, particularly as 33 practices were affected. In Suffolk, 22 of its 68 practices were affected.

Just 8pc of doctors working in the NHS in England participated in the industrial action, the Department of Health claimed.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said that about 2,700 non-urgent operations were cancelled and 18,750 outpatient appointments had to be rescheduled as a result of the action.

In some areas of England, 37pc of GP surgeries would see only those patients in urgent need of care as doctors took action for the first time in almost four decades.

In the East of England a quarter of GP surgeries operated a reduced service.

Dr Rob Harwood, chairman of the Eastern region consultants’ committee of the BMA, said: “That doctors would take this action is indicative that things must have got to a really bad stage, no that it wasn’t that it was going to bring the health service to its knees, we wouldn’t want that.

“I think we would be content with the response and I think everybody got the treatment they needed to have.”

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn had no cancellations, but the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had to reschedule 69 out-patients appointment and 15 surgical operations.

There was minimal impact at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, which did not cancel any surgery but rescheduled three clinics.

The West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds postponed 11 of the 45 operations planned for the day, 13 of the 44 planned outpatient clinics and seven of 46 planned ultrasound scans.

Where operations or clinics were postponed, patients were contacted and the appointments rescheduled.

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