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Independents' Day

Labour party U-turn on support for BMA industrial action

The Labour party has withdrawn its support for the BMA after GPs voted in favour of taking industrial action over the Government's pension reforms.

While the party had previously expressed their sympathy for the BMA's actions, yesterday Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow health secretary, urged doctors to ‘pull back from any form of action that damages patient care, including disruption to non-urgent care.'

He said: ‘Instead, I would urge the BMA to follow other routes in making clear the substance of their disagreement with the Government.'

The news comes after only a fortnight ago, Dianne Abbott, shadow health minister, told Pulse that the party would support industrial action as long as it did not compromise patient safety.

She added that the party had a ‘lot of sympathy for the BMA' as the Government had ‘lost the confidence of professionals – generally about their reforms, but also about their pensions' and said she believed the public would also support GPs if they opted for industrial action.

Elsewhere in Westminster, Conservative MPs asserted that the public will not understand the need for industrial action that will affect patient care.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk, and North Ipswich and former obstetrician, said: ‘Doctors have taken the wrong decision today, urged on by their trade union the BMA.'

‘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.' 

Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes and a former GP, took to the social networking site Twitter to voice her dismay at the idea of a strike. She said ‘Strike action would harm patients and undermine trust in doctors. The public won't understand well paid doctors striking over pensions.'

However, some believe the results of the ballot should induce the Government to re-enter into negotiations with angry GPs.

Rachael Maskell, head of health at Unite, said: "The BMA vote reinforces Unite's repeated call for the Government to get around the table for genuine and meaningful talks.'

She added: ‘The Government has alienated their hardworking and dedicated workforce by its high-handed actions – it needs to negotiate in good faith, and not by diktat.'

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