UK & World News
Doctors To Strike Over Pension Reforms Row
Doctors are to strike for 24 hours in protest against the Government's controversial pension reforms.
The walkout on June 21 will be the first time since 1975 doctors have striked and may be followed by further industrial action.
Doctors will provide urgent and emergency care but will postpone non-urgent cases on the day, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.
The BMA said it was taking action "very reluctantly" but attacked the Government for retreating on a deal on pensions agreed four years ago.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, of the BMA, said: "We are taking this step very reluctantly, and would far prefer to negotiate for a fairer solution.
"But this clear mandate for action - on a very high turnout - reflects just how let down doctors feel by the Government's unwillingness to find a fairer approach to the latest pension changes and its refusal to acknowledge the major reforms of 2008 that made the NHS scheme sustainable in the long term."
The BMA council made the decision after more than half of doctors eligible to vote cast in favour of industrial action.
The criticism from healthcare professionals comes as the latest changes would see them contribute up to 15.4% of their salaries in pension contributions - almost twice as much as other public sector staff.
The changes could also see younger doctors working until the age of 68 before being able to claim their pension, according to the BMA.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The public will not understand or sympathise with the BMA if they call for industrial action over their pensions.
"People know that pension reform is needed as people live longer and to be fair in future for everyone. We have been clear that the NHS pension scheme is, and will remain, one of the best available anywhere."
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said they are "deeply disappointed" over the decision to strike.
Mr Royles said: "Doctors know that any industrial action will impact on care and cause distress and disruption to patients and undermine trust and confidence in the medical profession.
"We know that doctors are anxious about changes to their pensions. But no-one wants to see patients dragged into the argument.
"Industrial action could potentially mean delays to treatment.
"It would be particularly distressing for patients and extremely worrying for staff who are dedicated to putting patients first."
Mr Meldrum added: "Non-urgent work will be postponed and, although this will be disruptive to the NHS, doctors will ensure patient safety is protected.
"All urgent and emergency care will be provided and we will work closely with managers so that anyone whose care is going to be affected can be given as much notice as possible."
:: Are you concerned that you or your family could be affected by these strikes? Email Sky's Thomas Moore at Thomas.Moore@bskyb.com