BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum has said he will meet Andrew Lansley in a bid to hammer out concessions on NHS pensions, but has hit back at the health secretary for his ‘inaccurate’ and ‘unconstructive’ response to BMA members’ formal rejection of the Government’s final pensions offer.
Last night, Mr Lansley rejected further negotiations on the key planks of the pensions reforms but offered to meet to discuss other pensions ‘issues’ with Dr Meldrum. He dismissed a BMA poll showing that almost two thirds of doctors would support some form of industrial action as an ‘informal survey’, and said the BMA’s threat of industrial action would win ‘no concessions’ on pensions.
Mr Lansley also emphasised that the BMA had agreed to ‘sign up to an excellent deal’ when it signed a Heads of Agreement, a document outlining the main elements of the Government’s final pensions offer .
But in his reply today, Dr Meldrum attacked Mr Lansley’s ‘inaccurate portrayal’ of events. The BMA said it had not accepted any deal, and stressed that the Heads of Agreement is simply a record of negotiations on pensions to date and signing up only showed a commitment to take the offer back to BMA members.
Dr Meldrum wrote: ‘I am concerned by both the unconstructive tone of your reply and by the inaccurate portrayal of the situation. As you know, the BMA did not sign up to the Government’s proposed changes to the NHS pensions scheme. Along with the other unions, we agreed to take the offer back to our members, and that is what we did.’
‘Doctors have now said, very clearly, that they do not accept the proposed changes. They have also said that, for the first time in a generation, they would be prepared to take industrial action. This is something that they find extremely hard to contemplate and reflects the strength of feeling in the profession. Industrial action would be a last resort, taken only if we are unable to find an acceptable way forward.’
‘I really urge you to work with the BMA and the other health sector unions to agree a fairer way forward and I am happy to take up your offer of a meeting to discuss these issues.’