Thousands of doctors 'will defy' the order to strike as they are deeply opposed to action
Strike on June 21 – the first industrial action by the profession in almost 40 years – has been widely condemned by politicians and the publicUnion has proposed that only emergency or urgent cases are seen and it is thought more than 150,000 operations, tests and hospital appointments will be cancelled and 1.2million GP appointments postponed
07:20 GMT, 1 June 2012
Thousands of doctors are expected to ignore orders from their union to stage a 24-hour strike.
Many GPs and specialists admitted yesterday they were deeply opposed to the British Medical Association protest over changes to pensions and plan to work as normal. The rebels include BMA members.
The strike on Thursday June 21 – the first industrial action by the profession in almost 40 years – has been widely condemned by politicians and the public.
Opposition: Many doctors are deeply against the protest over changes to pensions and plan to work as normal
The union has proposed that only
emergency or urgent cases are seen and it is thought more than 150,000
operations, tests and hospital appointments will be cancelled and
1.2million GP appointments postponed.
But yesterday many doctors vowed to carry on working as normal. Even those who voted in favour of the strike were said to be regretful.
Dr Vincent Argent, 64, an A&E specialist at Western Sussex Hospital in Worthing, said: ‘The majority of my colleagues are very apprehensive. They are very worried they will lose public confidence. I think people will carry on working, including those who voted yes.
‘Around 50 per cent of doctors’ work is emergency or urgent work anyway. Many younger doctors will not know what is classified as urgent so will treat patients regardless.’
Dr James Kingsland, a GP in the Wirral, Merseyside, said his surgery would be running as normal.
‘I’ve got no strong feelings on this issue other than I’ve got patients to see. I don’t think it’s the right way of tackling the issue.’
Professor Anthony Narula, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital, London, was another who said he had no intention of taking part.
‘I don’t know how it will play out but
surgeons aren’t very good at not working. They are a funny breed. The
majority of my work is elective, or non-urgent, but I intend to carry it
out on that day as usual.’
Other high-profile opponents include Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, who said the strike was ‘unreasonable’.
Doctors’ pay and pensions are by far the most generous in the public sector. Under proposed changes, a doctor now aged 40 would have to work until 62 to get the same pension as one retiring today at 60. And a junior doctor aged 24 would have to work until they were 67.
The BMA’s announcement followed a ballot of 104,544 eligible union members, of whom 52,250 responded and 84 per cent were in favour of industrial action.
But as well as those who didn’t vote, at least another 50,000 doctors do not belong to the union, meaning more than two thirds of doctors did not say yes to a strike.
The BMA insists the action is the only way its voice can be heard by the Government.
n Admin staff, cleaners and caterers who work for the BMA are planning to strike over a below-inflation pay rise. The workers – who belong to the GMB union – have accused the BMA of being ‘hypocrites’.
DR ANGUS ROSS: WHY I, AS A GP, BELIEVE THIS STRIKE IS WRONG
'The strike is wrong': Dr Angus Ross qualified as a hospital doctor in 1994 and then as a GP in 2002
My father was a GP. A country doctor,
working in County Durham, he was on call at all hours, often working
through the night and at weekends. As a boy, I used to sit on the stairs
at night when he was on call, waiting for him to come home so that I
could find out what had happened to his patients.
His dedication was
inspiring and influenced my decision to follow him into medicine. I
qualified as a hospital doctor in 1994 and then as a GP in 2002.
the British Medical Association defended the vote by its members to go
on strike. It said the decision for doctors to refuse all non-urgent
care had not been ‘taken lightly’.
a local GP with a busy practice in Cumbria, I firmly believe that this
strike is wrong and as a member of the BMA, I voted against it.
Furthermore, I am convinced that doctors will look back on this pivotal
moment in years to come as a grievous error of judgement.
This is a strike motivated purely by self-interest. Little thought has been given to the safety or welfare of patients.
the strike comes at a time when doctors have seen huge improvements in
their working conditions. Soon after I qualified in 2002, radical
changes were made to doctors’ working hours, with 24-hour responsibility
removed from local GPs.
I am responsible for my patients in the village of Kirkoswald from 8am
to 6.30pm. In the evenings, at night and in the early morning, my 2,300
patients are looked after by the local out-of-hours team.
As working hours have fallen, though, GPs’ salaries have risen. An average salary is 110,000.
pension arrangements were set in 2008, but since then the state of the
economy has meant that changes are necessary. The proposed reforms will
see doctors pay up to 14.5 per cent of their salaries in pension
contributions – up from the current 8.5 per cent – and they will be
expected to retire later than 60.
But disappointment over pensions is
not a matter worthy of strike action. We doctors should thank our lucky
stars that we remain in a profession with excellent job security, good
pay, and, by the standards of the private sector, gold-plated pensions.
I am not more principled than any
other doctor. I simply cannot see the justification for this action. Nor
would my patients – with their own worries about mortgages,
redundancies and squeezed pensions – muster much sympathy if I closed
the surgery for the day.
Condemned: The strike on June 21 – the first industrial action by the profession in almost 40 years – has been widely criticised by politicians and the public
doctors last went on strike in 1975, they did so with good reason.
Then, action was taken over working hours, at a time when medics
routinely worked 120 hours a week. There were very real concerns over
the safety of patients – of course, mistakes are made when doctors are
In any case, the impact of the planned strike will be entirely negative as the public worry about the risk to patients.
BMA says doctors will be in their usual workplace on the day of the
strike, but ‘providing urgent and emergency care only’. But what
constitutes an emergency I don’t know until I have examined someone.
four hours can mean the difference between life and death. I have lost
count of the number of times that someone has come in for a routine
appointment and I have privately thought ‘thank God they came in today’,
before sending them to hospital for immediate admission.
might be a gentleman who has a pain in his chest, and thinks he pulled a
muscle, but is actually having a heart attack. Or an elderly lady
suffering dizziness who turns out to have an undiagnosed and
life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm. Children often show vague
symptoms that can be caused by something serious: the child with a bit
of a temperature who is ‘not quite right’, and turns out to have deadly
rarely knows when they are an emergency case – they need a doctor to
recognise the urgency of immediate treatment. I am in no doubt that
there will be patients whose health is compromised by these strikes.
There will also be huge patient inconvenience. Let us not pretend otherwise: the point of a strike is to create discomfort.
surgeries will see a knock-on effect beyond the strike day. Busy
practices will lose a day of appointments thus creating several days if
not weeks of delay and disruption.
there are the more far-reaching consequences. I fear these strikes will
undermine doctors’ right to influence medical policy for ever.
have traditionally lectured politicians about patient care. Until now,
they have been fortunate to be listened to. However, I fear that in
years to come this disastrous decision to strike will be seen as the
moment when the medical profession’s ability to influence political
decisions was irrevocably diminished.
for me, it will be business as usual on strike day. I became a doctor
because I believed I could help people and save lives. I didn’t go into
medicine for the pension.