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Independents' Day

PCTs cause postcode lottery by failing to plan for NICE

The BMA has confirmed

it will consider balloting

members on industrial action if the Government sticks to plans to raise the retirement age for public sector workers to 65.

The threat came in advance of a decision on the issue, due next week at the end of two months of talks between ministers and public sector unions.

Strike threats by unions on the eve of the election in protest at the Government's original pension proposals forced it to promise a 'fresh start' to talks.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA's pensions committee, said the Government now had to prove its promise was not just a pre-election ploy.

He said it would be difficult to reach a deal for GPs if the Government went back to its original plans.

The BMA has estimated that raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 could knock 16 per cent off the value of GPs' pensions and spark an exodus from the profession.

'If the Government says it's 65 come hell or high water the unions will go back and look at the mandates they have from their members,' Dr Dearden said.

'Many unions in the NHS and TUC have mandates to take industrial action. The BMA has to come back to members to ballot for possible industrial action.'

He added: 'If the overarching framework is acceptable we will get down to the table face to face with NHS Employers, but if it says 65 that may stall.'

Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett hinted last month the Government would not back down on a change to the retirement age.

Tim Sands, NHS Pension Review project manager for NHS Employers, stressed the decision was in the hands of Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson.

He said: 'Clearly we are getting to a point where we have to discuss the real nitty-gritty issues.'

By Ian Cameron

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