Doctors to take industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years

by May 30, 2012 No Comments

Doctors in Scotland will be involved in planned industrial action on 21 June, BMA Scotland has said.

The 24-hour protest will see doctors stop providing non-urgent care, however emergency care will still take place.

Commenting following the announcement that the BMA is to take industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years, Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said:

“This industrial action will involve doctors working in the NHS across the UK and will therefore affect NHS services in Scotland. We have taken this decision to take action reluctantly, but it is the only means by which we can demonstrate our anger at the UK Government’s unfair and unnecessary changes to the NHS pension scheme. They have refused to negotiate meaningfully with us and the other trade unions and, given doctors’ strength of feeling, we have been left with no option but to go forward with this action.”

The decision follows a ballot of members on industrial action over changes to the NHS pension scheme. More than 104,000 medics across the UK were balloted, with half responding. Of those, 79 per cent of GPs, 84 per cent of hospital consultants and 92 per cent of junior doctors voted in favour of action.

Keighley continued: “These pension changes are being forced through by the UK Treasury. Despite the Scottish Government’s commitment to continued talks with health trade unions in Scotland, given UK Treasury constraints, there seems little that the Scottish Government is willing or able to do other than to follow the route set out for England and Wales.

“Our members are also angry with the Scottish Government, which has already chosen to impose a rise in contributions on NHS staff.

“We urge the Treasury to give the Scottish Government the latitude to enter fair negotiations on NHS pensions in Scotland, and we urge the Scottish Government to take the opportunity to develop a fair solution for Scotland.”

However, the Scottish Conservatives today questioned the mandate for the action, which they said could risk patient safety.

Scottish Conservative Health Spokesman and Deputy Leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said:

“Given little over two-fifths of doctors are backing this move, it does not make the resulting risks posed to patients a justified move.

“The turnout of 50 per cent shows there is no great appetite for industrial action among medical staff.

“The only people who stand to lose from this are the patients, who hold doctors in such high regard.

“But that regard could be undermined by this action, particularly at a time when people in every walk of life and industry are having to work harder to help improve the country’s economy.”

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie MSP called on Scotland’s Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon to do everything she can to avoid strike action.

Baillie said: “People will be alarmed about what this means for their appointments and services so it is important that the Scottish Government work to minimise that and inform people of plans in plenty of time.

“This extremely rare decision is a sign of how strongly our clinicians feel. Workers at all levels are under increasing strain with what is happening in the NHS.

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to get her eye back on the ball and put in place contingency plans so patient care is not compromised.”

The BMA has said it will launch a microsite tomorrow to help the public understand the planned industrial action and what it will mean for them and their families.

The full ballot results and briefing are available on the BMA website

Katie Mackintosh Katie Mackintosh

Katie is Holyrood magazine's Health Correspondent and has been with the magazine since 2005. She has an MA in Sociology with Gender from Edinburgh University and a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Napier University. Katie has twice been named PPA Scotland Feature Writer of the Year, in 2008 and again in 2009, and was shortlisted for magazine writer of the year at the Scottish Press Awards in 2012. She is an Aberdonian by birth, a Glaswegian by nature, who now lives in Fife with her...

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