NHS doctors in East London Lines boroughs have less than 2 days left to vote on taking industrial action against government changes to their pensions.
It follows a dispute over the reforms, which the British Medical Association say will mean young doctors paying over £200,000 in pension contributions over their lifetime and have to work eight years longer to 68.
In January, 84 per cent of 46,000 doctors and medical students responding to a BMA survey, said they would support industrial action.
Balloting began on May 14 and ends at 5 p.m. on Tuesday May 29.
Dr Kambiz Boomla, Tower Hamlets GP and Clinical Senior Lecturer at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, told East London Lines that he supports the industrial action as part of a wider public sector defense of pensions.
He said: “This is a coordinated attack by the government on the entire public sector. The public sector pensions’ scheme is not in defecit overall. It’s not projected to be in defecit for at least the next five to ten years.
“What’s happening is the government are choosing to take money out of the public sector pension schemes, not because there’s a problem with public sector pensions but in order to use that money to fill the gap in the treasury coffers that they have wasted bailing out the banks.”
When the ballot was announced, Health Minister Simon Burns said well-paid doctors could not justify taking industrial action, as reported in the Huffington Post.
He said: “The first responsibility of all NHS staff must to be help patients. Industrial action is completely unacceptable because it would put patients at risk.”
However, should the BMA decide to press forward with industrial action, doctors taking part would still attend their place of work and only provide urgent and emergency care for one or more 24 hour periods.
Boomla said the BMA have been very clear in instructions to doctors.
Patients would not be put at risk. He said: “There would be lots of doctors hanging around, able to deal with any emergencies or life threatening stuff because they wouldn’t be seeing their routine pre-booked appointments on those days. So it’s probably the safest day of the year to fall ill on.”
And when asked by East London Lines whether doctors may use the strike to protest against changes to the NHS made by the Health and Social Care Act, Boomla said a victory of pensions could give doctors confidence in the future.
Boomla also told East London Lines that the pensions reforms go against an agreement with the BMA and the government.
According to the government, the pension reforms are fair and make the public service pensions affordable. Burns said: “It is fair that higher earners pay greater contributions relative to those on lower and middle incomes.”
But Boomla told East London Lines: “Four years ago we had a thorough review of the NHS pensions scheme for doctors, including that for GPs. And various adjustments were made to it, which included a commitment from doctors and GPs that should our pensions fund in the future prove to be underfunded, then our pension contributions would go up.
“So all that is copper-bottomed into our existing agreement… It’s a bit like if you put lots of money into your building society account and the goverment says ‘Well there’s a lot of money in that account, I’ll take 20 per cent of that’. It’s not their money, they shouldn’t be taking it.”