Doctors’ strike called off as support for action falters

The British Medical Association have published the results of their ballot today. Picture: Getty
The British Medical Association have published the results of their ballot today. Picture: Getty
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DOCTORS’ leaders have ruled out striking this winter in a dispute over pensions – despite many medics voting in favour of the action.

• Doctors will not strike this winter despite the majority of medics being in favour of such a proposal

• BMA members balloted 6,500 doctors across Scotland on the issue but could not gather enough support to press ahead with action

• ‘Disappointing’ turnout for ballot was less than 50 per cent

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the ballot of 6,500 hospital doctors in Scotland on the issue had failed to win enough support for the

action to go ahead.

The union said it was “disappointed” with the turnout for the ballot – less than 50 per cent – but vowed to continue to put pressure on the UK and Scottish governments.

The BMA said it was “heartened” that finance minister John Swinney yesterday promised to “embark on a strong and meaningful discussion” with doctors over the pension reforms being pushed through by Westminster which are set to affect all public sector staff.

Strike action by doctors was supported by two of the four groups balloted – junior doctors and “staff associate”; and specialist and speciality doctors. Consultants backed industrial action but stopped short of striking, while the fourth group – public health doctors – rejected both forms of action.

The final decision was taken by the association’s UK council, which yesterday announced that the three proposed winter one-day strikes, when only emergency patients would have been seen by doctors, would not go ahead.

Dr Brian Keighley, BMA chairman in Scotland, said: “It’s clear from the ballot result that although we don’t have a clear overall mandate for strike

action, doctors are angry about the way the Scottish Government has handled plans to change NHS pensions.

“Although we are not taking industrial action, we will continue to lobby and campaign against the unfairness of these pension changes, and will work with the other NHS unions to press for meaningful negotiations in Scotland.

“Doctors do not understand why, when the Scottish Government is so opposed to the pension reforms being led by the UK government, they are implementing aspects of them in Scotland where they have the devolved authority to do something different.”

Plans to reform the NHS pension scheme would mean doctors working longer and contributing as much as 14.5 per cent of their pay for their


The BMA had asked members to vote in favour of both action short of a strike and strike action, and said the strikes would only be held if the majority of

doctors agreed to both the questions.

Fewer than half of the 6,500 doctors balloted took part in the vote. Mr Swinney told MSPs at Holyrood that he welcomed the BMA’s decision, adding it would be a “relief” to many.