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BMA to put Government’s pension offer to a vote of GPs

The BMA is to ask doctors and medical students to vote on the Government's pension offer - with a ballot to be held on industrial action if the offer is rejected.

BMA Council announced this evening that it would give members the chance to vote on the Government's pension offer once negotiations have concluded. Union sources said that the Government hoped to have negotiations concluded by the end of December, but warned that a conclusion by the end of the year was ‘unrealistic'.

The BMA move follows rising anger across the medical profession at the Government's reforms of the NHS pension, which include sharp rises in contributions and an extension of the retirement age initially to 65, and then beyond. Pulse's No to 65 petition, submitted to Downing Street over the summer, attracted the signatures of 1,700 GPs.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of the BMA, said:‘Doctors stand to be very hard-hit by the proposed changes to the NHS Pension Scheme. Those at the start of their careers face the prospect of paying around £200,000 more in lifetime contributions, and of working much longer.'

‘This is manifestly unfair given that the NHS Pension Scheme was completely overhauled only three years ago, when staff accepted big increases in their pension contributions. This also comes at a time when doctors are subject to a pay freeze. These changes are so significant it is vital that our members have their say on what should happen.'

‘While the BMA did not ballot doctors on industrial action for the Day of Action, we are encouraging our members to show their support on 30 November. We hope the Government will see reason and engage in more meaningful negotiations to reach a settlement that is fair to all parties involved, and so avoid any further disruption to the public.'

The Government offered some concessions on its pension deal earlier this month, including agreeing that they would not apply to doctors due to retire in the 10 years from 1 April 2012, but that has not been enough to win round many GPs, or other public-sector workers.

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: ‘This is an attack on everybody's pensions and I'm not at all surprised that the BMA is deciding to consult its members.'

‘The end of December is unrealistic [to expect a conclusion]. We've got problems with the timeline from all sides. The non-negotiable elements, including the increase on contributions, creates real problems. I am not surprised that there has been an increase of 75% in consultants taking early retirement. I personally think it's ill advised to take retirement but the truth is that it shows doctors' anxieties over pensions, on top of things like the health bill.'

‘We're very optimistic that medical personnel from junior doctors through to GPs and hospital consultants will be there in spirit alongside us on the day of action next Wednesday.'

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