Analysis: ‘Reluctant move against intransigent government’

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Doctors will be taking industrial action today for the first time in almost 40 years. We are taking this step with great reluctance because the UK government is pushing through unnecessary, wholesale changes to the NHS pension scheme.

Despite agreeing to major reforms in 2008 that made the NHS pension scheme fair and sustainable, doctors are now being asked to work even longer, up to 68, and to contribute much more of their salary, up to 14.5 per cent.

These contributions are twice as much as those of civil servants at the same level of seniority and pay, for the same pension. We are not looking for preferential treatment but fair treatment. Doctors feel let down by the way the government has torn up a deal that was fair and affordable.

The 2008 reforms to the NHS pension scheme were designed to make it sustainable and it currently delivers a positive cash flow to the Treasury of £2 billion a year. Despite this, the UK government is making further major changes to the pensions of NHS staff. In taking action today, I would stress patient safety remains our priority. The model of action we have chosen is deliberately designed to protect patients, and doctors will be in their workplace as usual, but will only provide urgent and emergency care. In hospitals, many patients have had their appointments cancelled or operations postponed. We regret the inconvenience caused to patients as a result of this action, but I would stress that we have been driven to this point by an intransigent government and hope that the public will understand why we feel strongly enough to take this step.

• Dr Brian Keighley is the chairman of BMA Scotland