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BMA suspends industrial action over pensions

The BMA has suspended plans to take further industrial action over the Government's pension reforms after a crunch vote at today's Council meeting in Edinburgh.

BMA Council met to determine the next steps following the day of industrial action taken by doctors on 21 June, with discussions held on whether to take further days of action, or boycott revalidation or clinical commissioning to try and force the Government back to the negotiating table.

But the association said it was suspending plans for further industrial action, as it was clear that ‘only escalated action' would prompt ministers to rethink the changes, which the BMA said it was ‘unwilling to do' because of the impact on patients.

It comes after Pulse reported earlier today that yesterday's meeting between BMA chair Dr Mark Porter and health secretary Andrew Lansley failed to yield concessions from the Government, dampening the BMA's hopes of using the meeting to reopen negotiations.

The BMA has instead opted to join other health unions in talks with the Government about the detail of the changes to the NHS pension scheme. BMA Council also agreed to step up campaigning to achieve improvements in the longer term, particularly around the increase in retirement age.

The BMA also released the results of an Ipsos MORI poll on industrial action to coincide with the announcement, which showed that 81% of the public were aware of action, and 49% supported doctors in the dispute, while just 29% supported the Government. The poll also found that 42% supported doctors taking further action, while 35% were against.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, said: ‘Last month's action enabled thousands of doctors to send a strong and clear message to government about how let down they felt, while also honouring their commitment to protect patient safety. Independent research by Ipsos MORI shows that the public were more likely to support doctors in the dispute than the government, and that the majority were confident about our commitment to protect their safety above all else.'

'Industrial action was never our preferred way forward.  We would always far prefer to seek changes to the government's plans for NHS pensions through negotiation and lobbying, rather than taking action that could jeopardise the much valued relationship with our patients.'

'We always said that we would review our action in order to determine next steps. Having done that, it is clear that only escalated action has any possibility of causing the Government to rethink its whole programme of changes. The BMA and the profession as a whole are unwilling to do that at this point because of the impact on patients.'

But he added: 'Doctors' anger with the Government will not just go away. We have not ruled out taking further industrial action in the future and we are committed to continuing to fight for a fairer deal in the longer term.'