This site is intended for health professionals only

BMA to ballot doctors in May on plans to provide urgent and emergency care only

The BMA is to ballot doctors across the UK on whether they are willing to provide only urgent and emergency care for a 24-hour period in protest at the Government's pension reforms.

Council members today decided to proceed with the first ballot of doctors on industrial action since 1975 in May, unless the Government rethinks its imposed changes to NHS pensions.

The association insisted the plans  would not compromise patient safety, but would allow doctors not to undertake some duties that ‘could safely be postponed'.

It said decisions about what could safely be postponed would be based on the professional judgement of local doctors, who, with the support of the BMA, would aim to work with employers to give as much advance notice as possible.

GP practices would remain open and staffed so they could see patients in need of urgent attention, but routine, non-urgent appointments would not be available on the day of action. The action could involve the postponement of routine operations and non-urgent outpatient appointments in hospitals.

The BMA said a series of actions werebeing planned, but the impact on patients of the day of action would be reviewed before a final decision was made.

The announcement came after Council members met today to finalise plans and hear fresh legal advice on the ballot. Earlier this month the BMA was forced to postpone its series of roadshows due to legal concerns.

The ballot is scheduled to open on 14 May and close on 29 May, with BMA Council to make a decision on what to do next following the results.

The BMA said plans for the day of action will be further developed with doctors locally and following discussions with employers.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'We're taking this step very reluctantly and only because the Government will not engage with us to even try to find a fairer way forward. NHS staff agreed to major changes to their pensions only four years ago. As a result, the scheme is delivering £2 billion to the Treasury each year and staff have taken on sole responsibility for covering increases in costs due to improvements in longevity in the future. Now the Government wants to tear up a deal reached through genuine negotiation and impose these further, unnecessary changes.'

'There is still time for the Government to rethink its plans, but if it does not, we have made a firm commitment that patient safety will be the over-riding priority. If we do go ahead, anyone whose condition required urgent or emergency care or investigation that day would be treated.'

'All doctors due to be in work would still be in their usual workplaces. We would aim to work with managers, and other NHS staff to try to ensure as much notice and information about what was happening on the day as possible.'  

In addition to the national roadshows, the BMA is also hosting a series of local workplace events around the UK where GPs can get information about the pensions ballot and pose any questions they have to the association. A BMA spokesman said: ‘The plan is to have events both before and during the ballot period.'

A full list of the local events can be found here.

Will you vote for industrial action? Take our two-click pension poll.