Doctors risk losing patient trust with more strikes, warns BMA chief
DOCTORS have been warned not to rush into taking more strike action due to growing fears they will lose the public’s trust.
The chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), Hamish Meldrum, said doctors risked alienating themselves from patients the longer their dispute over pension reforms went on.
Dr Meldrum urged doctors to find a “sensible” solution to the issue which last week saw doctors take industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years.
His comments came as The Scotsman learned that an increasing number of doctors in Scotland are now in favour of more radical strike action in the coming months.
Speaking at the opening of the BMA conference in Bournemouth, Dr Meldrum said: “There has to be a resolution eventually, and the longer it takes the more polarised both sides become and the more difficult it will be to reach that resolution – and the more damage we risk to our trusted relationship with our patients and the public.
“Though we demonstrated a powerful and united voice, no-one should be triumphalist, no-one should be rushing to repeat or escalate this.”
The leader, who stands down this week, said he shared doctors’ anger at the reforms – which will make doctors one of the highest pension contributors – but urged them to find a “sensible way out” of the dispute.
Dr Meldrum branded the reforms “a disgrace”, highlighting how the pension scheme is already bringing in £2 billion more a year than it is paying out to doctors.
He said: “It’s a disgrace that doctors should be the highest contributors to their pensions of any in the public sector. Higher than judges and civil servants, and higher than politicians.”
Meanwhile, Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Council, revealed that a growing number of doctors in Scotland were now in favour of more industrial action which would go further than last week’s 24-hour strike.
Dr Keighley said: “There’s mixed feelings among doctors in Scotland as to what should happen now. Some are calling for stronger action and propose not going into work to highlight their strength of opposition to the reforms.”
Last week doctors turned up at their regular place of work but were only supposed to work if they were faced with an urgent referral or a patient needing emergency care.
Six out of ten doctors in Scotland took part in last week’s strike which led to the cancellation of hundreds of operations. Around 80 per cent of Scottish doctors are BMA members.
The pension reforms mean doctors could have to pay a further 14 per cent towards their pensions and raise their retirement age to 68.
The BMA will vote on whether to take any future strike action at the close of its conference on Thursday.
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