It didn’t take long, did it? In June, we voted at the BMA Annual Representative Meeting that ‘further industrial action over pensions is necessary’ and ‘this should include withdrawal from clinical commissioning activity’. Scarcely one month later, we get the letter from Dr Mark Porter telling us BMA Council has suspended industrial action. Boycotting of commissioning activity was rejected as it might allow the private sector to step in.
Wake up and smell the coffee. The private sector is already stepping in, big time. Contracts are being awarded at an increasing rate to the private sector – children’s services in North Devon have Virgin as the preferred bidder and hospital pharmacy services at Guy’s and St Thomas’s have gone to Sainsbury’s. They’re already coming in.
This is not going to be stopped by the BMA capitulating. Nobody can guarantee victory if we fight, but defeat is certain if we don’t. It’s certainly true that if only a few withdrew from commissioning we would look weak, but what about another survey to see if the will is there?
The attack on pensions is a crucial part of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s privatisation strategy. Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, couldn’t have been more frank when he said the new pensions ‘will be substantially more affordable to alternative providers’.
It’s because pensions and NHS privatisation are so crucially intertwined that we need to link these two fights.
The second excuse for abandoning the fight was because the other public-sector unions have caved in. But again, it was not the membership that caved – it was their leadership. Support for the great pensions strike on November 30 was massive, and could be built on again if the BMA does not throw in the towel.
The BMA is letting down its membership and ignoring their expressed views. Get to your local division meetings and let BMA Council know what you think.
Dr Kambiz Boomla is a GP in Tower Hamlets and chair of City & East London LMC