Exclusive The BMA Council could back away from further protest action on pensions, including a ballot on industrial action, even if GPs and hospital doctors show an overwhelming desire to take further action to defend their pensions in the survey currently underway.
Speaking at one of a series of roadshow events held across the country - that have collectively have attracted a strong turnout of more than 1,000 doctors - the chair of the BMA's pensions committee told members that BMA leaders would not be bound by the results of the vote.
The poll of the BMA's 130,000 members closes on Monday, with the BMA Council due to consider the results at its council meeting two days later.
In November, BMA Council said it had ‘decided to step up preparations for a possible ballot on industrial action, which would follow the vote in the event of a rejection of the proposals.'
But Dr Alan Robertson, chair of the BMA's pensions committee, told members attending a roadshow event in Edinburgh: ‘[The vote] is not binding because [BMA] council has the responsibility to take the decision.'
'They will obviously take those views on board but just because the survey says one thing it does not mean that they automatically must do it. Things are moving so fast that another [pensions] offer could come out or something could change.'
Dr Robertson said that BMA Council could decide to engage in further talks with the Government, armed with the feedback from the profession, or could make ‘some kind of decision around industrial action.'
‘It depends to an extent what we get told in the survey and to an extent what council feels is the best option,' he added.
Another 900 doctors are signed up to attend BMA roadshow events scheduled for the rest of this week. Roadshows will take place in Bristol and Newcastle tonight before 430 doctors attend a packed meeting at BMA House in London on Friday evening.
The mounting tension ahead of next week's BMA Council meeting comes amid a split among health unions in their response to the Government's final NHS pensions offer.
Unite's health sector industrial action committee, which represents over 100,000 health workers including around 100 GPs who are members of the Medical Practitioners Union, has ‘unanimously rejected' the offer
. But Unison activists voted to continue talks with NHS Employers over specifics in the offer and said it would consult members when talks conclude in coming weeks.
This week the Royal College of Nursing said it is launching a vote for members to decide whether to accept or reject the Government's final offer. The union said details of the vote would be revealed in coming weeks.