Doctors’ leaders have backed away from further industrial action over pension changes and agreed to re-enter talks with the government.
The British Medical Association’s ruling council on Wednesday decided against a repeat of the action it took on June 21, when doctors performed only urgent and emergency treatment to highlight their grievances over planned increases to the contributions they make to pension funds and a rise in retirement age.
The BMA said that the government had since written to health unions to propose talks, which would review the impact of working longer, and consider the proposed increases to contributions in years two and three of the scheme.
Andrew Lansley, health secretary, made clear from the outset that he would not re-enter talks with the BMA unless other health unions were involved, arguing that otherwise lower-paid health workers risked being disadvantaged in favour of highly paid medics.
Dr Mark Porter, council chairman, said last month’s action had allowed “thousands of doctors to send a strong and clear message to government about how let down they felt, while also honouring their commitment to protect patient safety”.
But it had not been “our preferred way forward”, Dr Porter added.
The BMA would not plan any further action at this stage and would take part in the government’s talks on the detail of the pension changes.
But while the scope of the talks remained “limited”, the council had also decided to step up its campaign, especially around the move to link the normal pension age for all NHS staff to the state pension age, he said.
“We have not ruled out taking further industrial action in the future and we are committed to continuing to fight for a fairer deal in the longer term,” he added.
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said the NHS would “breathe a sigh of relief that there will be no more industrial action for the moment”.
The BMA’s decision would “help us all to redouble our work, in partnership, on this challenging NHS pension agenda”. Mr Royles added.
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