Health secretary Andrew Lansley has urged doctors to ‘do the right thing’ and boycott the day of action in a last-ditch attempt to reduce the impact of the BMA’s planned protest.
In his keynote speech to the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, Mr Lansley delivered a stinging rebuke to doctors’ leaders, claiming the industrial action was ‘pointless’, and would ‘achieve nothing’.
Mr Lansley also aimed a broadside at the BMA’s claims that there had been no negotiations over the pensions deal, and claimed the chair of the BMA’s pensions committee had failed to turn up to a single meeting to discuss the changes.
He later told Pulse it would be ‘even more perverse’ if doctors opted to pursue further action that involved withdrawing their co-operation from clinical commissioning.
Mr Lansley told delegates: ‘I want to call on doctors to think again before taking part in a strike that will inevitably damage the services for patients.
‘The strike is pointless. It will achieve nothing. We will implement this deal, which is a fair and sustainable deal for NHS workers. All the BMA is doing is creating uncertainty, discomfort and difficulty for patients, most of whom could only dream of getting a pension like theirs. Even at this late stage, I would call on all doctors to think again, do the right thing and ditch the strike.’
He added: ‘We negotiated together at length. I had meetings with the chair of council of the BMA alongside other trade union leaders. The chair of the BMA’s pensions committee didn’t turn up to a single one of those meetings, which doesn’t say much about their determination to get the right deal for doctors.
‘Rather that engage, the BMA has ignored the economic and financial realities. We all wish there was more money to around but there isn’t. Everyone has to tighten their belts. In seeking a more generous deal for doctors, the BMA is seeking a less fair deal for NHS staff over all. I don’t think the NHS staff or the public will understand or sympathise with that.’
He later added: ‘I would say to individual doctors, some of what the BMA has told you as the basis for going on strike is wrong. There has been a negotiation.’
In a response to a later question from Pulse, Mr Lansley gave short shrift to the notion that doctors may opt to withdraw their co-operation from commissioning as a means of registering their anger at the Government’s pension reforms.
He said: ‘It would be even more perverse, if it’s possible, than the current action. The current action has the risk of damaging services for patients tomorrow, but not engaging in clinical commissioning runs the risk of damaging services for patients for a long time to come.
‘It’s not about me. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do it, and if they were to do it, I think the public would say “hang on a minute, your responsibility and your motivation is to look after patients. Why are you putting your self-interest ahead of the interests of your patients?”‘
‘I would be unhappy, but can you imagine that a doctors’ motivation should be to disappoint Andrew Lansley?’