The BMA was an organisation that used to strike fear into the hearts of governments. So when the day of industrial action was called, it was hoped that it would make the Government think again about its planned Maxwell-type act of theft on pensions. There was a sizeable body of support for the action, including yours truly.
When it came down to it, however, it was something of a damp squib. The Government got its propaganda outlets to spew out the party line (through The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and the BBC), and many people simply did not do anything about industrial action.
My practice took industrial action. I supported it. We were in the minority. This is a subject that I feel is important, so I canvassed family and friends who were doctors about this. They all cited that they did not want to affect patient care. I agree with them, as I didn’t want to affect patient care either. However, I did not find a single doctor outside of my own practice that was prepared to stand up to an act of governmental felony.
The BMA has backed down for now. Vanquished for the time being.
Since then, I have spoken to some colleagues about their next actions. They all shrug their shoulders and say there is nothing they could have done, that their decision was based on staying on the moral high ground or variants of that.
Over the next few years, doctors’ pensions will gradually go the same way as other private pensions that have been catastrophically hit by the economic circumstances. Add into this the mismanagement and fee-taking by those who were supposed to be maximising the benefits for the pensioners, but who were only lining their own pockets. Private pensions have been decimated.
I entered the NHS Pension Scheme 40 years ago as a contract between the government and myself. Now that I am approaching my retirement, I expect that contract to be honoured. My pension is deferred income, paid for by me and millions of others like me. It is not a pot of money to be stolen by a Government who has screwed up the economy on a grand scale.
So what will the BMA do? The answer is that it will do very little now. That is because the BMA is not a separate entity – it is the likes of Jobbing Doctor and hundreds of jobbing doctors up and down the country. We are the BMA, and if the BMA fails, then it is all of our fault. We failed ourselves, and every single doctor who declined industrial action will have to accept the poorer pension arrangements that will result.
The healthcare sector is being badly affected by the corporatocracy that passes for government these days. In five years’ time, practices will be largely run by CareUK, and Virgin and Serco and all the other outsourcing carpetbaggers. You will be told where and when to work, and how many patients you can see, and how to respond to the latest government ‘initiative’.
When you are old and grey and bouncing your grandson on your knee, and he asks you ‘What did you do to protect the National Health Service, Grandad?’, I wonder what many will say.
‘Well, Grandson,’ you might reply, ‘I decided to take the moral high ground and not damage patients.’
If your grandson is old enough, he might then respond by saying that your morals did nothing to protect the future of the service and the people in it.
I suspect you would shrug your shoulders and change the subject.