Your editorial suggests the BMA misunderstood the nature of the Heads of Agreement document on NHS pensions, and that it has tied our hands. However, it was made very clear throughout that we had not accepted the offer.
Along with most of the other health unions, we agreed only that we would put the Government’s December offer to our members, and allow them to make the decision on our next steps.
It was made very clear in the document that we would need to consult members, and this is exactly what we have done.
The contribution increases starting to be imposed this April were outside the remit of these discussions, and subject to a completely separate consultation. There is no question of us not continuing to fight them. It is also wrong to say that the current offer is worse than the original one.
In fact, following negotiations, there were some modest improvements – but, as the survey of BMA members clearly showed, they did not go nearly far enough.
Finally, in response to suggestions that we should have balloted our members on the Health and Social Care Bill, the law only permits industrial action in furtherance of a trade dispute. Dreadful though the NHS reforms in England are, our opposition to them does not constitute a trade dispute. That is why no union has been able to ballot its members on that issue.
From Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair
Pulse wasn’t suggesting Dr Meldrum had misunderstood what the Heads of Agreement was – we said the Government had acted ‘shamelessly’ in claiming the BMA’s signature as backing for its deal, and had shown ‘breathtaking cynicism’.
We did, however, assert that the deal now on the table was worse for GPs than the original one, and were here referring to the further rise in contributions for high earners – and easing of contributions for low earners – placed on the table after the public-sector day of action.
We would accept though that the Government did make concessions to exclude GPs within 10 years of retirement earlier in the pension negotiations.