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BMA set to hold emergency meeting to debate pensions industrial action as DH snubs talks

Exclusive: The BMA looks certain to discuss options for balloting GPs on industrial action at an emergency meeting next week, after it emerged that no substantive talks have yet taken place over possible concessions on pensions - and none have been scheduled.

A BMA source told Pulse that industrial action remained a ‘last resort', but said health secretary Andrew Lansley's continuing refusal to re-open talks on crucial elements on the scheme meant that a planned emergency council meeting to discuss a possible ballot was likely to go ahead on 25 February.

The BMA's e-petition urging the DH to ‘reopen meaningful negotiations' has so far received more than 11,500 signatures.

The source said: ‘We've been disappointed at the inflexibility from the Department of Health, and their response makes a ballot on industrial action more likely.'

‘We're not holding our breath that the Government will see reason overnight, but we've been really heartened by the response to the e-petition.  A strong message from individual doctors is vital in making our case.'

Dr David Bailey, deputy chair of the BMA's Pensions Committee, said: ‘We're pursuing every possible avenue to bring the Government back to the table.'

‘We've had a really encouraging response to the e-petition so far.  It's really important that as many doctors as possible sign it.'

‘In the event of a ballot on industrial action, we can expect some pretty unpleasant media coverage. The fact that the NHS pension scheme is already sustainable and financially strong is a detail that some don't, or won't, hear, especially in the current financial climate.'

The Department of health said scheme specific discussions had been arranged for later this week with all trade unions including the BMA to finalise the Heads of Agreement.

But a BMA spokesperson said the talks did not represent 'meaningful discussions' on the issues they are looking for movement on.

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association and a GP in Swindon, said: ‘There is much more anger about these changes than the Government realises. It is deeply unjust to screw around with our pensions just four years after we've accepted we pay more contributions. It doesn't sit comfortably when you have a two-way contract that one side can just change.'