Doctors try to justify strike in open letter
Doctors have published an open letter in the national newspapers to try to quell a growing backlash against their industrial action.The full page statement, paid for by their union, the British Medical Association, explains why they are striking and taking a day of action.
The BMA announced yesterday that doctors would postpone non – urgent operations, outpatients’ appointments and GP consultations on June 21.
Tens of thousands of patients will be affected and the action will cost the NHS at least £40 million.
The letter doctors have published in the national newspapers
The move has led to accusations of them being “greedy” and leaving patients “waiting in pain” for surgery.
Department of Health figures show that a typical NHS doctor retiring now at 60 will receive a pension of more than £48,000 a year for life.
In addition, they receive a tax – free lump sum of about £143,000, a pension scheme that would cost more than £1 million in the private sector.
The letter, signed by Dr Hamish Meldrum, the Chairman of Council, tries to reassure patients that they emergency cases will be looked after and outlines their reasons for action.
“We will be postponing non-urgent cases and although this will be disruptive to the NHS, rest assured, doctors will be there when our patients need us most and our action will not impact on your safety,” it reads.
“We feel this action is vital in order to address the unfair treatment of the NHS pension scheme. Despite agreeing to major reforms in 2008, that made the NHS pension scheme fair and sustainable, doctors are now being asked to work much longer, up to 68 years of age, and to contribute much more of their salary, up to 14.5 per cent, for their pensions.
“These contributions are up to twice as much as those of civil servants on the same pay, for the same pension. We are not looking for preferential treatment from the Government but we do want fair treatment. This is the first industrial action by doctors since 1975 and it is not a decision we have taken lightly.”
The industrial action was called after a ballot of 104,000 BMA members returned overwhelming support for action.
But the day of action has been roundly criticised.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said the public would not understand or sympathise with the decision to take action.
Even Andy Burnham the shadow health secretary, urged doctors to “pull back”.
The Patients Association said people would be forced to wait for operations while in pain.
A further day of action would be considered after June 21.
Julia Manning, the chief executive of 2020health, a think tank, said: “This is a massive own goal for doctors that tarnishes them all with a ‘greedy’ brush. Many of my friends in medicine will be horrified and embarrassed at the thought of their colleagues striking.”