Medic MP says doctors shouldn’t strike

A Suffolk MP who is still a practicing medic hit out at fellow doctors today after thousands of them voted to take industrial action over proposed changes to their pension schemes.

Suffolk Central MP Dan Poulter continues to practice medicine as an NHS hospital doctor on a part-time basis, but yesterday he suggested the public would not accept well paid doctors taking industrial action.

His comments came after the British Medical Association (BMA) announced that following a ballot of its members, 24 hours of industrial action would take place on June 21 with the threat of further action to follow.

The move was a response to proposed changes which the BMA claims will mean doctors paying in more to their schemes and working for longer for a similar sized pension.

Dr Poulter said: 'As a doctor, my first duty is to my patients. That is why I would not participate in strike action. Doctors have taken the wrong decision today, urged on by their trade union the BMA. Industrial action will harm patient care.

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'With the government's final offer to doctors being a pension of �68,000 a year, the public will simply not understand why doctors have called for strike action over pensions that private sector workers and many other frontline NHS workers can only dream of.'

The government says pension reform is necessary because people are living longer. Today, a 60-year-old doctor retiring can expect to enjoy 29 years of retirement. This means drawing a pension for almost the same time as they actually worked for the NHS, some 36 years.

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By contrast, a doctor retiring at 60 in 1984 could only expect to live for 20 years in retirement. Both would have paid similar amounts for their pension, but the extra nine years for today's doctors will cost the taxpayer around �440,000 extra per pension.

Under the new arrangements Treasury officials claim a doctor joining the new scheme after 2015 can expect a pension of over �53,000 at age 65. Meanwhile if they retire at the new state pension age of 68 the doctor could expect a pension of around �68,000 per year.

In yesterday's ballot - in which some 50,000 doctors took part - a clear majority of GPs, consultants, junior doctors, associate specialist and speciality doctors, and public health and community health doctors said they were prepared to take part in both industrial action short of a strike and a strike.

The BMA said doctors were taking action reluctantly but that pension changes were the final straw after NHS staff had already suffered a pay freeze. It added that emergency cases would still be treated while non-urgent cases would be postponed.

The organisation also complained that the government had begun to implement changes despite 'widespread criticism' of its approach from organisations representing health professionals.

It claimed the changes would see doctors paying up to 14.5pc of their salaries in pension contributions, twice as much as some other public sector staff on a similar wage. They would also have to work longer, up to the age of 68 to receive their pension.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: 'We are taking this step very reluctantly, and would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution.

'But this clear mandate for action, on a very high turnout, reflects just how let down doctors feel by the Government's unwillingness to find a fairer approach to the latest pension changes.'

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