Health secretary Andrew Lansleysaid: ‘I don’t think the public will remotely understand that a proportion of doctors who are amongst the best paid in the NHS and will continue to have a pension scheme that is amongst the best available anywhere should put patients to any degree of inconvenience.
‘The BMA have assumed a 14.5% contribution rate – that is still up for consultation – but even if they assume that, they don’t take into account the tax relief that is available.’
Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: ‘We know that doctors are anxious about changes to their pensions. But no one wants to see patients dragged into the argument. Industrial action could potentially mean delays to treatment. It would be particularly distressing for patients and extremely worrying for staff who are dedicated to putting patients first.’
Roswyn Hakesley-Brown, chair of the Patients Association,said: ‘Although we recognise that the BMA will target this strike at non-urgent care, we have real concerns about the possible impact this will have on patients. The distinction between an urgent and a non-urgent case may not be clear, and as a result time may be lost in cases where treatment is needed urgently.
‘In addition, at a time when people are already waiting longer for elective surgical procedures, further cancellations of those operations will not be welcomed by those waiting in pain for a hip or knee replacement. I hope that a solution can be found before any strikes occur.’
Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said: ‘It is desperately important that we don’t harm patient care, that GPs are not seen as putting themselves before patients, that we enunciate this so it is seen as a genuine injustice. Any action we do take must not harm patients.
‘I think the BMA has done this, but I think that general practice has an important task to do in terms of public relations. We’ve always been seen with high satisfaction rates, as trusted by patients and as commissioners, which is an amplified role in terms of public duty to do the best by the local population.’
The Medical Defence Unionsaid: ‘Where doctors are contemplating industrial action it is important that they are mindful of their professional obligations towards patients, as outlined by the GMC, and that patient safety is not compromised.
‘Doctors who opt not to provide certain services during a period of industrial action should be prepared to justify the arrangements that they put in place to meet patient needs during that period.’