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GPs could face ballot on industrial action over pensions ‘before Christmas’

GPs could be balloted on and participate in NHS-wide industrial action over pensions ‘before Christmas' if talks with the Government fail - with one GPC member proposing a profession-wide boycott of commissioning.

The prospect of doctors taking imminent industrial action over pensions came as the Government indicated it wanted to bring forward plans to increase the retirement age to 67.

Work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith said he wanted to increase the retirement age sooner than timetabled, raising the prospect that GPs, among others, will be left waiting until 67 to collect their pensions within years, rather than decades.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail told Pulse the TUC, which is leading public sector union pension talks and is holding its conference this week, was trying to persuade the Treasury to give individual Government departments some flexibility in negotiating.

Ms Cartmail said: ‘We are trying to establish with Treasury ministers what authority spending departments might get to deal with individual schemes. All 17 health unions held a meeting recently and everybody wants a negotiated outcome but there is a huge hill to climb and very tight deadlines. We have a real concern departmental representatives don't have real authority to negotiate.'

‘There will be further talks between health unions pretty speedily and we are not ruling anything out. We are certainly not ruling out action before Christmas.'

Dr Paddy Glackin, a GPC member and a GP in Islington, north London, said: ‘If action was to be taken I think it should be targeted at the bureaucracy rather than action that would directly affect the care of patients.' When asked if a boycott of commissioning might be the best option, he replied: ‘Certainly.'

Dr Glackin said attention would switch from the Health and Social Care Bill to pensions soon, possibly within the next two weeks.