Doctors set for new wave of strikes as pension row intensifies

Doctors could strike again if a row over pensions is not resolved, with tougher industrial action planned this time around.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says it will ballot its members if the Scottish Government fails to deliver changes to the NHS pension scheme being pursued in the rest of the UK.

If it goes ahead, the union will ask hospital doctors in Scotland if they are willing to take strike action, with only emergency cover still being provided.

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This would be for a 24-hour period, with the possibility of further days of action over a sustained period.

Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee, said this was stronger than the industrial action taken by medics in June.

He said: “It is disappointing that we are considering further, stronger industrial action on the issue of pensions but we believe that this is the only way we can get the Scottish Government to listen to us.”

Dr Morrison said talks had been taking place between the Scottish Government and health unions for about six months. He accused the government of “failing to deliver”.

Dr Morrison said: “They agree that the increase in NHS staff contributions to their pensions is unjust and describe it as a ‘short term cash-grab’ yet they offer no alternative.

“They say they are negotiating with us in good faith yet they have been unable to provide clarity on the scope of these negotiations or come up with any genuine alternative to the English proposals. This is a government that is talking up its opposition but failing to deliver on these words.”

The BMA plans to ballot hospital doctors in November and, if the vote gives the go-ahead for action, the strike will take place on 12 December, with the possibility of further action on both 8 and 17 January next year.

The dispute centres around what the BMA has described as “totally unjustified” increases to pension contributions and a later retirement age for doctors.

It comes after doctors took their first industrial action for some 37 years in June, which resulted in some non-urgent work being postponed.

Non-emergency hospital clinics, outpatient appointments and planned surgeries were ­cancelled.

Doctors still saw anyone who was ill but did not do paperwork. Accident and emergency departments and maternity services ran as normal.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the BMA in Scotland is balloting for further and more serious industrial action when they are actively involved in ongoing discussions.

“The Scottish Government has demonstrated willingness to work in partnership with NHS trade unions to find a way forward on pensions issues within the ever tighter constraints imposed on us by Westminster.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said the timing of the potential industrial action “could not be worse”.