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Doctors to Strike on 21st June: Most People Outraged

Posted on the 31 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary

Andrew Lansley condemns doctors strikes. Photocredit: NHSE

The background

The British Medical Association has announced that it will take industrial action on 21st June, providing only urgent and emergency care. This will be the first doctors’ strike in over 30 years. Over half of eligible doctors voted in the ballot, made up of doctors across the spectrum. The strike is over pensions. Currently, doctors who earn over £120,000 pay 8.4 per cent into a pension fund, reported The Times, which would rise to 14.4 per cent under proposals – higher than for civil servants; for those on £45,000 it would go up to 9.3 per cent. The strike follows those of civil servants and teachers.

The Independent reported that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, had condemned the decision; doctors said that the pension offer didn’t take into account the bigger contributions they would have to make. Patient safety during the strike is said to be “paramount,” but there will be a “knock-on effect.” Commentators are united in their outrage; most see doctors as well-paid, with already cushy pensions which won’t be much affected by the new scheme.

“This strike makes the BMA look awful and shows that they are no more than a trade union representing a part of the NHS which is already very well paid,” said a source close to Mr Lansley, quoted on The Independent.

The NHS must sweat its assets

The public trusts doctors: but the BMA should not test that trust, said The Times’ leader. The problem is that public sector pensions are too expensive. Sure, the doctors feel agreed – but it’s a “matter of cold arithmetic.” When some GPs earn over £100,000, it “is hard to imagine much public sympathy for such numbers.” There’s no money left: “The NHS now needs to concentrate on sweating its assets.”

Doctors should be ashamed of themselves

The Independent ’s leader was equally fulminating: “such widespread obstinacy over still-generous pension arrangements is misguided. From the doctors, it is inexcusable.” Their “arguments are neither financially nor morally valid.” If you start now as doctor, you can expect “£68,000 a year” after retirement. This “naked self-interest, at a time of widespread hardship,” is doing the image of doctors great damage. They “should be ashamed of themselves.” The Daily Mail agreed with The Independent, adding that “Decent doctors – and, mercifully, that means most of the profession – should have nothing to do with it.”

“It’s enough to make you feel ill,” said The Sun’s leader.

Doctors should remember who their enemy is

The Mirror was broadly  in favour of the doctors, but said that they must “remember their battle over pensions is with the Government, not those who need medical care.” Sure, they have a case – working longer and paying more “for a worse deal” is hardly good. But patients shouldn’t be the victims.  David Blackburn on The Spectator said that the arguments had been clouded in rage. The BMA could make its arguments “more clearly.” Bleating about “fairness” is “ill-defined.” It should be emphasising the difference between the 7.35 per cent that civil servants pay and the 14.5 that they are expected to – on “equivalent salaries.” If the unions continue to limit themselves, then the government will win – and that is what looks like is happening, judging by all the furious headlines.

Labour’s missed a chance

The Friendly Lefty blog said that Labour had missed its opportunity to put forward a “progressive position” on the matter, which would castigate the Coalition for their attack, praise the role of doctors, and decrying the very fact that doctors are striking in the first place.

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