The last time doctors decided to take industrial action was in 1975. Almost four decades later, it has taken a row over pensions to prompt members of the British Medical Association (BMA) to call on its members to only provide emergency or urgent care on Thursday.

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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 East Anglia, primary care trusts say it will be “business as usual” for most GP surgeries, with only a few expected to be offering just emergency or urgent cover, while some hospital services could also be affected.

David Kerry, head of emergency planning for NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said so far the indication was that all GP practices in Norfolk and Waveney would be open for their normal surgery hours, but some would be modifying what services are available.

He said: “We are currently seeking responses from 117 main GP practices. Ninety-four practices have responded and we know 66 practices are taking no action at all with twenty-eight modifying some services, but this ranges from virtually no impact to a handful offering urgent and emergency appointments only. Only a small number of routine appointments and administration will be affected.”

For example, a snapshot survey of the Dereham area showed that medical centres at Litcham, Elmham and Swanton Morley, Fakenham, Massingham, Wells, Burnham Market and Docking, Swaffham, Reepham and Mattishall will have clinics as normal and GPs will be conducting a normal surgery.

At Dereham’s Theatre Royal Surgery, three of the partners who are normally on duty on Thursdays will be seeing emergencies and visits only, while another partner who is normally on duty that day will carry out normal booked surgeries and visits. The surgery nursing, administrative and management teams are all working as normal.

Richard Hall, practice manager at the Orchard Surgery in Dereham, said: “Whilst we support the reason for the action, we have taken the decision not to inconvenience our patients and will be offering a normal service.”

In local hospitals, all urgent and emergency care will be provided as normal, including maternity services. Earlier this week, indications were that all routine services at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn were expected to proceed as usual and at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital a very small number of clinics or routine operations may have to be re-scheduled.

For Rob Harwood, a consultant in anaesthetics at the N&N, the decision to strike was not taken lightly, but it is the unfairness of the pensions changes proposed which mean he will only be offering a clinic for urgent and emergency cases tomorrow.

Dr Harwood, chairman of the Eastern region consultants’ committee of the BMA, said the changes to pensions agreed four years ago made them fairer and ensured that the scheme was already future-proofed and would not fall upon tax payers if costs rose.

He said: “The NHS pension scheme makes a £2bn a year profit for the treasury already.

“These changes mean that civil servants would be paying about half as much for the same pension as doctors on the same salary and it simply isn’t fair that one group of public sector workers would be paying twice as much as another.”

He added: “Patient safety will be the absolute priority despite the strike. All doctors will be going into their normal place of work.”

In Suffolk, 22 out of 68 GP practices will be affected by industrial action, although in seven of these practices not all GPs are participating.

Sadie Parker, NHS Suffolk’s head of primary care, said: “Plans are in place to ensure patient safety and quality of care is not compromised on Thursday.

“For the majority of GP practices in Suffolk it will be business as usual. However it is common sense that everyone needs to think carefully about how they use NHS services on Thursday and lighten the load on the NHS.”

People who have appointments already booked should assume these are proceeding unless they are contacted by their GP or hospital practice and told otherwise

On Thursday, people who feel they need to see a doctor urgently should contact their GP surgery as normal. The out-of-hours GP services, as well as community and mental health services are expected to operate as usual.

People are also being encouraged to first seek advice from their community pharmacists, who are highly qualified and can offer advice and medicines for many health issues.

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee, which represents GP practices, said: “Individual practices will decide whether they undertake routine appointments. Patient safety continues to be doctors’ priority, regardless of whether nor not they are taking industrial action, and all affected practices will have taken steps to ensure this is not compromised.”

25 comments

  • " Flamebait (more commonly known as trolling) is a message posted to a public Internet discussion group, such as a forum, newsgroup or mailing list, with the intent of provoking an angry response (a "flame") or argument over a topic the poster often has no real interest in ". Quite so.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

  • @ Daisy Roots. When has the government tried to steal the product of workers contributions?

    Report this comment

    AE

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • I have no problem with Doctors (or anyone else for that matter) having a fantastic pension but to do so they must take responsibility and pay for it themselves instead of relying on the taxpayer to fund it.

    Report this comment

    Bedford Canary

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • The amount of pay is irrelevant; just because doctors earn a lot doesn't mean they should not fight for their pension like evryone else who has their pensions cut! If you want a doctors salary become a doctor!

    Report this comment

    nicola Allen

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • I don,t think they should strike as anyone in the public sector shouldn't. They should be happy with the pension scheme at least they are getting a pension linked to their earnings. I would love to be able to have that security in retirement As for being overpaid? personally i don't think so they have studied for years, done long hours as a junior and Debts which they pay off for many years after qualifying so guys im with you on that one you do deserve your pay.

    Report this comment

    middie

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • their pensions are far to generous and they should pay more from their huge salaries, not sure we even need GPs whenever I go to see one they either refer me to a practice nurse for anything minor or a specialist for anything major

    Report this comment

    blister

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • Public sector pensions have been in existence for decades and the method of financing them has not altered since their inception. Why is it now an issue, why wasn't action taken when they were introduced? The playing field hasn't changed.

    Report this comment

    nicholas dasey

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • The Office for Budget Responsibilty has stated public service pensions are affordable so as there is no economic rationale for the Coalition's raid on the NHS Pension scheme the reason has to be one of political ideology of reducing the wealth of the 99% in favour of the 1% of the very rich.It is no surprise the combined wealth of those on The Sunday Times Rich List has increased by £155 billion in a year or that,as the GMB union has revealed,this is where the Conservative Party receives much of their donations.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • ***There are GPs who use their surplus income to invest in property to rent...***. So what ? Renting property to people who would otherwise be homeless ? I am deeply shocked at this outrageous behavior.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • The GP's have now taken responsibility for health care commissioning in Yarmouth & Lowestoft (the CIC) and in the process are taking over the role of old PCT's . Any strike by them must therefore affect the whole running of the NHS in that area. It is no longer a case of them simply being 'Private' doctors with NHS Patients.

    Report this comment

    Nick

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • Isn't this the same debate as the teachers and public sector workers strike last year? Quite simply, why should private sector workers subsidise public sectors workers? Those in the private sector, in the main, have to contribute to their own pension or receive reduced benefit on retirement, so why shouldn't public sector workers? The only way that the existing retirement dates and benefits could remain is if tax paid by us all subsidises it. Yawn!

    Report this comment

    AE

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • @nicholas dasey. The reason is that investment returns are lower these days and people are living longer. These 2 facts mean that without increasing the capital within pension funds there is less money available to pay to pensioners.I hope that helps. @ LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE. Sounds like I was incorrect about current contributions. However, it is still only correct that individuals contribute fairly to their own pension and not expect others to subsidise them.

    Report this comment

    AE

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • If, by the time the doctors have retired they have their homes paid for, and they ought to on £120K per annum, and they have no other major expenses what are they spending their £1000 plus pension money each week on? There are far too many people who can only dream of this as a wage, let alone a pension.

    Report this comment

    Locallad

    Friday, June 22, 2012

  • " ***Those in the private sector, in the main, have to contribute to their own pension*** ". Can it really be the case that you think those in the public sector DON'T contribute to their own pension ? I use to contribute about 10 %. Doctors are being asked to up theirs to 15.4 % . The government would be better employed pursuing tax dodgers like Vodaphone and foul mouthed big head Jimmy Carr if they want to raise funds.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • One hundred percent behind the doctors. Good luck to them.

    Report this comment

    fester1902

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • Why should anyone pay a large chunk of their salary based on the promise of a certain level of pension be happy when a government tries to steal the product of their contributions away from them? At the very least they should offer public sector workers who are affected their career's worth of contributions back with interest calculated according to the interest rates for the time they were making contributions. Pension provision is a determining factor when workers accept a contract and salary-doesn't matter how much they earn.Changing the terms is like a breach of contract.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • The doctors pension scheme currently brings in £2 billion more than it hands out, this excess money goes back to the government, doctors also pay in more money into their scheme (both in terms of absolute value and percentage) than any other similar scheme (e.g. Teachers). The course fees to become a doctor (at the UEA) are around £36k, that's without cost of living for five years, and if you're a mature student or have a degree already then no cheap student loan for you. I have no problem with doctors earning a good salary after a huge investment in their education, furthermore if they pay a large chunk of their salary to provide a good pension, much of which has been going back to the government for many years then they should be entitled to keep it. These changes are proposed because of the possibility of the fund not being able to pay for future pensions, for people that haven't even joined the scheme yet, in other words the government is trying to rob people who have paid in their money already, the fund excesses that the government have been taking back for years isn't going to be put back into the scheme. In other words, the government has been skimming the pension fund for years, there is currently no (and has never been a) shortfall, they say there could be a shortfall in the future so they want doctors to increase their contribution (when they already put more in than any comparable pension). Surely a better idea would be to increase the contribution or pay back in some money that they have been skimming IF a shortfall ever happens?

    Report this comment

    Mikey

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • That`s interesting, Larson. You seem to be quite an expert on the subject...... There are GPs who use their surplus income to invest in property to rent. Often to `DSS people` who would otherwise be homeless. Rachmanism never really went away, but I would never have guessed it`d become the preferred second (first) income stream of a hitherto well-respected sector of society. GPs risk being categorised with other `worthies`, like Estate Agents, Financial Advisors and Time-Share Sharks. :-(

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • Same old - same old.... Yes, the overpaid, greedy doctors should have a pay cut AND pay every penny into their fat pensions.... Sorry, but there is so much ignorance regarding the pay of doctors and NHS staff. A Doctor is expected to be an expert in his field and to make the right decisions everytime. If he gets it wrong then the patient who "knows his rights" will sue. So, therefore the Doctor is entitled to a decent wage. NHS staff have historically been paid far less then their private sector counterparts but the pension was the one thing that encouraged recruitment into the service. With the government seeking to destroy the NHS I think we will see fewer and fewer people wanting to train in this profession. @Blister... so you dont think we need GPs? Ok, tell you what, lets do away with the NHS so your taxes wont be wasted on these inflated people. Oh, I assume that you wont mind paying the £150+ bill for seeing a clinician when you or a loved one falls ill? This isnt including any prescriptions nor treatment of course......

    Report this comment

    Babelfish

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • At the age of 75 my private pension is £88.00 a month, of this I pay the taxman £44.00 a month. So I get my State Pension plus the £44.00, but do I mind the Doctors trying for a better deal.--------NO because of my doctor and the NHS I am still alive.

    Report this comment

    John L Cooper

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • Dr Harwood says that the pension scheme is in credit - at the moment! Doctors like the rest of us are living longer and will be claiming even bigger pensions (due to generous past pay awards). Their pensions will just mean more tax from the rest of us.

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    Dr Dee

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • A true professional would never go on strike. Any doctor doing it should be ashamed. When you loook at what doctors earn. They have lost my respect.

    Report this comment

    Johnny Norfolk

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • @middie. It seems the public sector ARE happy with the pension scheme, it's the new changes they're complaining about and I can understand why.

    Report this comment

    fester1902

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

  • You greedy gits - With doctors earn anything from £80,000 to £250,000 - they are incredibly well off - surely they could actually save some of their salary for their pension - get real - most of us in the county earn less than £23,000 - I hope you don't have to call upon my services if you are in dire need - I think I might go on strike as well....

    Report this comment

    A Resident

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  • They are very, very well paid. They are working less hours than ever before. They have lots of perks of the job and they receive £68,000 pension - enough! They have nothing to complain about and certainly no need to take industrial action.

    Report this comment

    samphirelover

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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