By Gareth Iacobucci
LMC leaders have thrown out calls for the GPC to consider the option of industrial action in its campaign to protect GP pensions, in a heated vote at their annual conference this afternoon.
The motion urged the GPC to resist any further attempt to renegotiate the GP pension scheme by ‘all possible means, including the option of industrial action and resignation’.
But in the most boisterous debate of the conference, 82% of representatives rejected the call, amid warnings that supporting the action would amount to ‘professional suicide’.
In March, the Hutton report recommended a rise in the GP retirement age, eventually to 68, and an increase in pension contributions. Official documents seen by the BMA suggest that the Government plans to make GPs double the amount they pay into their pension pots within the next four years. The move has provoked considerable anger in the profession, with almost 1,500 GPs signing our No to 65 petition.
Dr Phil Dommett of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LMC, who proposed the motion, insisted pensions was ‘the one subject which tops the agenda for many colleagues’.
He said: ‘No mild or open-ended motion will do this issue justice. We cannot put up with this attack on our pensions. This is the core business of LMCs. We want the BMA to fight for us at every level.’
‘A line must be drawn to prevent a mass exodus of GPs, from pension schemes, or even the NHS itself.’
But other GP leaders came out strongly against the move, warning that GPs would suffer a negative backlash from patients and the public.
Dr David Wrigley, of Lancashire LMC, said the move would be ‘tantamount to professional suicide’.
He said: ‘Our pensions scheme is a superb scheme that we still have. We must fight this in ways that don’t involve industrial action or resignation.’
‘We will receive no sympathy from our patients. Our reputation would be destroyed for a generation.’
Dr Paul Alford, of Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth LMC, also opposed the motion. He said: ‘We should be above this. We are very well paid. Doctors do not strike for our own self-interests.’
But delegates did back a separate motion insisting that the Government honour in full all the accrued rights of current NHS pension scheme members, which they said were ‘fair for members and for the taxpayer’.
GPs also backed separate strands of the motion which supported the GPC and BMA pensions department in its campaign to mitigate the adverse impact of the changes, and warned that ‘any loss of contractually agreed existing benefits will lead to a rush in retirement of senior GPs’.
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