Doctors vote to strike over pensions as patients are warned to expect avalanche of cancelled appointments and operations
Strike date of June 21 setThousands of GP appointments and hospital operations will be cancelledDoctors will only undertake duties that cannot safely be postponedGPs voted by 13,837 to 3,687 to take action short of a strike and by 11,062 to 6,426 in favour of strikesIndustrial action will be first time doctors have gone on strike since 1975104,000 doctors across the UK were balloted and there was a 50 per cent turnout

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UPDATED:

17:16 GMT, 30 May 2012

Doctors have voted in favour of taking industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years.

The move deals a major blow to ministers' hopes of resolving the dispute over pension changes.

Thousands of GP appointments and hospital operations will now be cancelled on June 21 when the first 24-hour strike goes ahead.

Summer of strikes Doctors have voted in favour of taking industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years in a move that deals a major blow to ministers' hopes of resolving the dispute

Summer of strikes Doctors have voted in favour of taking industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years in a move that deals a major blow to ministers' hopes of resolving the dispute

The British Medical Association said
it was taking action 'very reluctantly' but attacked the Government for
going back on a deal on pensions agreed four years ago.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of
council at the BMA, said: 'We are taking this step very reluctantly, and
would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution.

'But this clear mandate for action –
on a very high turnout – reflects just how let down doctors feel by the
Government's unwillingness to find a fairer approach to the latest
pension changes and its refusal to acknowledge the major reforms of 2008
that made the NHS scheme sustainable in the long term.

'Non-urgent work will be postponed
and, although this will be disruptive to the NHS, doctors will ensure
patient safety is protected.

'All urgent and emergency care will
be provided and we will work closely with managers so that anyone whose
care is going to be affected can be given as much notice as possible.'

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:
'The public will not understand or sympathise with the BMA if they call
for industrial action over their pensions.

'People know that pension reform is
needed as people live longer and to be fair in future for everyone. We
have been clear that the NHS pension scheme is, and will remain, one of
the best available anywhere.

'Every doctor within ten years of retirement will receive the pension they expected, when they expected.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: 'We are taking this step very reluctantly, and would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution'

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'The public will not understand or sympathise with the BMA if they call for industrial action over their pensions'

Loggerheads: Dr Hamish Meldrum (left), chairman of council at the BMA, claimed the strike was called 'very reluctantly' while Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (right) said the public 'will not understand or sympathise with the BMA'

'Today's newly qualified doctor who
works to 65 will get the same pension as the average consultant retiring
today would receive at 60 – the BMA have already accepted a pension age
of 65.

'If doctors choose to work to 68 then they could expect to receive a larger pension of 68,000.'

Six separate ballots were held, for
GPs, consultants, junior doctors, staff associates and specialist
doctors and occupational and community health doctors.

GPs voted by 13,837 to 3,687 to take action short of a strike and by 11,062 to 6,426 in favour of strikes.

'Doctors know any industrial
action will impact on care and cause distress and disruption to patients
and undermine trust and confidence in the medical profession'

The last time doctors took industrial
action was in 1975, when consultants suspended goodwill activities and
worked to contract over a contractual dispute, and junior doctors worked
to a 40-hour week because of dissatisfaction with the progress of
contract negotiations.

The BMA argues that higher paid NHS
staff already pay proportionately more for their pensions than most
other public sector workers, a disparity which it said increased in
April when their contributions went up, and which is set to rise again.

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Industrial action: Doctors on strike will only undertake duties that cannot safely be postponed

The results break down as follows:

GPs voted by 13,837 to 3,687 for action short of a strike, a 78 per cent majority, and by 11,062 to 6,426 to strikeConsultants backed action short of a strike by 15,733 to 2,938, an 84 per cent majority, and by 13,637 to 5,021 for strikesJunior doctors voted by 11,113 to 928 for action short of a strike, a 92 per cent majority, and by 9,863 to 2,177 to strikeSpecialist doctors backed action other than strikes by 3,030 to 435, an 87 per cent majority, and by 2,644 to 807 for strikesOccupational medicine doctors rejected action short of a strike by 25 to 16 and voted by 27 to 14 against strikingCommunity health doctors supported action short of a strike by 294 to 97, a 75 per cent majority, and by 235 to 155 for strikes.

Dr Meldrum said: 'There will be some
inconvenience, but the last thing we want to do is harm patients when
our real bone of contention is with the Government.'

Doctors have been hit by a pay freeze and increased workload so the increased pension contributions were the 'final straw'.

Given the strength of feeling among doctors, the BMA had no choice but to call action among its members across the UK.

But Dean Royles, director of the NHS
Employers organisation, said: 'We are deeply disappointed with the
announcement from the BMA about their decision to take industrial
action.

'Doctors know that any industrial
action will impact on care and cause distress and disruption to patients
and undermine trust and confidence in the medical profession.

'Doctors will now work locally with
NHS trusts to assess the impact on local services and to consider the
important question of communication with patients and public.'