THOUSANDS of patients across Scotland were affected yesterday after doctors took their first strike action in almost 40 years.
Official figures show 3,650 procedures were cancelled and six in ten GP surgeries were affected by the industrial action.
• Thousands of patients affected by first strike in 40 years.
• Six in ten surgeries affected by action, 3,650 procedures cancelled
• BMA says strike has achieved aim of showing opposition to “unfair” pension reforms
Doctors said only “a small number” of patients arrived at hospital to find their operations had been cancelled and said that some of them were operated on by doctors who were on strike.
Eight in ten doctors in Scotland are members of the British Medical Association and last night the union said it believed the majority of them took part in the day-long action.
The BMA said the strike achieved its aim – to show its opposition to “unfair” pension reforms that will see doctors pay more contributions and work for an extra three years – without too much disruption to patients.
The BMA also said how more doctors in Scotland are believed to have taken part in the strike than other parts of the UK, which was reflected by proportionately more ‘yes’ votes for action by Scottish doctors.
Dr Lewis Morrison, of BMA’s Scottish Consultants Committee, said: “This was not about driving a truck through the NHS, this was about showing we are serious in our opposition to these unfair and unjust pension changes.
“We are truly sorry to have caused patients inconvenience. This was not intended to be massively disruptive for them and, on the whole, it hasn’t been. Patients who needed care on the day got it. There was never any doubt they would not.”
But some politicians slammed the union for taking the action and criticised the health secretary Nicola Sturgeon for not doing more to prevent it.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Ms Sturgeon had the opportunity to reflect the view of patients and the public in Scotland by condemning this. She failed to do this.”
Ms Sturgeon yesterday voiced her sympathy for doctors but the Scottish Government said it remained opposed to the action and remained committed to talks with doctors over pay.
Dr Brian Keighley, chair of the BMA in Scotland, criticised the Scottish Tory leader’s comments, blaming her party for bringing on the need for strike action.
He said: “The Tory coalition government has torn up a fair, sustainable and affordable agreement on NHS pensions reached only four years ago, and is refusing to negotiate seriously with NHS staff.”
Scotland Patients Association chair Margaret Watt criticised the health boards’ preparation and said: “Boards should have done some smarter thinking ahead and ensured cancelled operations were rescheduled for a weekends, instead patients will have to wait for new dates.
“Ultimately, however, we understand why doctors have done this. And those people who criticise them, such as Tory MPs, should take a look at their own pensions and pay-offs before criticising those of people who do jobs which save lives.”