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GPs set to back industrial action as Pulse launches pensions campaign

Exclusive: GPs are leaning towards voting for the first doctors' industrial action since the 1970s in response to the Government's pension reforms, as Pulse launches the Say No to 30% campaign.

The BMA opted late last week to ballot on whether to provide only urgent and emergency care for a 24-hour period.

A Pulse snapshot poll of 120 GPs, conducted in the immediate wake of the BMA's announcement, found 56% planned to vote in favour of industrial action in the ballot next month, compared with 33% who were set to vote against and 11% who were unsure.

The findings closely echo the results of the BMA's pensions survey in January, which found 55% of GPs supported some form of industrial action.

This week Pulse is launching Say No to 30%, the next stage of our campaign against the pension changes, which turns the spotlight on the astonishing proportion of pay some GPs will give up in employee and employer contributions.

We are calling on ministers to return to the negotiating table, urging GPs to vote Yes in the forthcoming ballot if they do not, and demanding the BMA keeps the pressure up by making clear it is prepared to ballot on further protests – including boycotts of non-clinical work. Pulse will also highlight to the national media GPs' key arguments against the pension changes (see box right) as the profession braces itself for a rough ride from the likes of the Daily Mail.

The BMA will hold its ballot of members between 14 and 29 May, with BMA Council to make a decision on what action to take following the results.

The plan would see GP practices remain open and fully staffed so they could see patients in need of urgent attention, but not offering routine appointments. In hospitals, routine operations and non-urgent outpatient appointments would be postponed.

Doctors will also be asked if they are willing to take full strike action, but the BMA ruled out actually taking such action and said the question was only being inserted for legal protection – to make clear that providing only urgent and emergency care for 24 hours did not amount to a full strike under the terms of consultants' contracts. 

The BMA insisted the plans, which could see the profession taking industrial action for the first time since junior doctors and consultants did in 1975, would not compromise patient safety, but would allow doctors not to undertake some duties that ‘could safely be postponed'.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘We're taking this step very reluctantly. There is still time for the Government to rethink its plans, but if it does not, we have made a firm commitment that patient safety will be the over-riding priority.'

While the majority of respondents to Pulse's survey said they planned to vote for industrial action, grassroots GPs were divided over the BMA's plan for a ‘day of action'. A third of those surveyed said the BMA had judged it right, but 13% said it had gone too far, while 53% said it had not gone far enough.

Dr Steven Lindall, a GP in Walthamstow, east London, said: ‘Short of closing the doors, I don't think anything we do will have any impact. If we stop doing repeat prescriptions for 24 hours all that means is more work the next day. We would have to withdraw non-emergency appointments for two weeks.'

Dr Rebecca Mallard-Smith, a GP in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, was one of the dozens of GPs to back Pulse's campaign: ‘The only thing keeping us positive is that we will leave the profession with a good pension. Now that is not the case – when will it stop?'

 

Pulse campaign: Say No to 20%

Pulse is launching the next stage in its campaign against the Government's pension changes.

 

Our demands:

• Ministers must return to the negotiating table

• GPs should back the BMA's day of action if they don't

• The BMA must be willing to ballot on further action

 

We pledge to:

• Highlight GPs' key arguments against the changes to the national media

• Open up a new petition on our website, alongside our existing No to 65 petition

For more information and to sign up, go to our dedicated Say No to 30% campaign page - and let us know what you think by taking part in our survey.

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