David Davison: Strike action by the BMA can only alienate patients

TOMORROW’S planned industrial action by British doctors is likely to leave most of the UK population feeling a little the worse for wear.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) voted for the single day action – which will result in an estimated loss of 1.2 million GP appointments and tens of thousands of cancelled operations – over proposed government changes to their pensions.

The fact that people will be denied access to their GPs is one thing, but when you look at the already generous remuneration and pension provision given to UK doctors it will leave many of us feeling sick as a parrot.

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Recent figures suggest that more than 4,000 GPs in the UK earn more than £150,000 a year, with the average salary in excess of £100,000. Overall, doctors are paid six times the average private sector worker’s salary.

Of course, few of us would argue that they should not be well paid for the important contribution they make, along with the great levels of responsibility and often high pressure that accompanies their profession.

However, this all needs to be put in proportion. Even after the government’s proposed changes, the pension provision for a UK doctor will still average between £65,000 and £70,000 a year. It’s also important to bear in mind that their pension is inflation-proofed with a spouse benefit on death. To secure such benefits in a private fund would require a pension pot well in excess of £3.5 million.

In assessing pension affordability you must also look at the key issue of longevity. The standard of living that most doctors maintain throughout their working years leads to a longer than average life expectancy and puts another significant cost on the long-term viability of their pensions.

The vast majority of people have great respect for the medical profession. However, the decision to take industrial action which, according to a recent YouGov poll, is supported by only 28 per cent of the public, is putting this goodwill at risk. The BMA needs to prescribe itself a hefty course of reality pills.

• David Davison is head of public sector, charity and not-for-profit practice at Spence and Partners.