The BMA has ruled out breaking away from other NHS unions and negotiating a separate pension deal for doctors, as it comes under fresh pressure to consider industrial action over pensions via motions submitted to next week’s annual representative meeting.
Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA pensions committee, warned GPs that any break away from the NHS Pensions Scheme would be ‘absolute folly’.
His comments came as several motions on doctors’ pensions were tabled for debate at the BMA’s annual representatives meeting in Cardiff next week, including one from the Solihull division calling for a ballot on ‘all forms of industrial action’ if a career average scheme is introduced. Such a move ‘may result in up to a third of GPs retiring prematurely,’ it says.
A motion from Yorkshire regional council demands that accrued pensions rights, including that of early retirement on a full pension, ‘must be fully protected’.
But a BMA spokesperson appeared to rule out the strategy of negotiating a doctors-only pension deal. ‘It’s premature to be discussing the next steps. The ARM debates have not yet taken place, and the Government has not yet even put formal plans out to consultation.
‘However, we need to be clear that we’re talking about an NHS pension scheme, not a doctors’ pension scheme. It’s made up of a range of different types of NHS workers, and we’re happy to be part of it. The scheme was agreed in 2007 with all the unions working in partnership, and is all the stronger for it.’
Dr Dearden, a GP in Cardiff, told Pulse: ‘There are 140,000 doctors and 1.4 million members of the NHS scheme. A separate scheme would be vulnerable to further contribution increases, to benefit cuts and ultimately to closure.’
He also urged GPs not to withdraw from the NHS scheme prematurely. ‘My advice is, don’t panic. Don’t do anything irreversible because the scheme has not yet been changed. We only know what they say they are going to do – and this Government does not always do what they say they are going to do.’
Last week, ministers reiterated their intention to raise contributions by an average 3.2% with the likelihood that GPs, as high-earners, would see larger increases due to protections pledged for the lowest paid workers.