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LMCs surprise with their lack of fight on pensions

By Richard Hoey

Representatives seemed fearful of a media backlash in refusing to reserve the right to take action over pensions, but surely this was the one issue that was worth fighting, reckons Pulse editor Richard Hoey

Well, I have to confess, I wasn't expecting that one.

Just a couple of days ago, a senior GP with a key role on the LMCs conference told me he thought it was a formality that representatives would back the main pensions motion.

That motion was of course a long way from a ballot to industrial action. It merely placed the threat of action in the GPC's armoury, urging it to resist any further attempt to renegotiate the GP pension scheme by ‘all possible means, including the option of industrial action and resignation'.

I understand of course the argument against the motion – GPs are acutely aware of how eager the national media is to bash them, and some LMC representatives argued that voting for a militant stance on pensions would provide just the ammunition the papers needed.

I'm not so sure, though. GPs are far from the only profession facing much longer working lives under the Hutton proposals, and many other public-service unions have already been vocal in opposition, usually to decent levels of public support.

Indeed, I reckon there's a certain feeling of solidarity among the public on this one, even from the most unlikely of quarters.

Back in March, Pulse did a story about how one-third of GPs were threatening to quit before the pension changes came in, and its publication prompted a call from the Daily Mail.

My heart sank - like the LMCs this week, I assumed they'd frame the figures into one of those classic 'greedy GPs' stories they like so much - but the Mail did the story straight.

If even Paul Dacre accepts GPs' right to fight for their pensions, then surely LMCs were over-sensitive on this one.

Still, Pulse plans to pick up the baton. We've booked a slot at 10 Downing Street for 26 July, and will be handing in our No to 65 petition – more than 1,500 signatures to date - alongside Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association.

GPs may no longer have the possibility of industrial action or resignation up their sleeves, to send shivers down the Department of Health's spine, but the grassroots of the profession can still make their voice heard.

Richard Hoey, Pulse editor