Pension and pay woes prompt BMA ballot over industrial action

Senior doctors’ horrendous pension tax bills could soon be at the centre of industrial action by consultant members of the BMA.

The association today announced it will launch a consultative ballot of consultants in England next month to see if they would be prepared to go that far in pursuit of better financial treatment from the Government.

It said: ‘While this is not a legal ballot for industrial action, it represents a significant escalation towards it. The outcome will be used to inform the BMA whether to proceed to a statutory ballot on industrial action which would be over cuts to consultants’ pay and the failure to address the ongoing pensions crisis.’

The BMA warned that the NHS was at severe risk of losing its most senior doctors as more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts and punitive pension tax rules left consultants with little option but to reduce their hours or leave the health service.

‘With mounting waiting lists and ever-increasing demands on the NHS, the BMA is clear that the health service cannot afford to lose doctors who are willing and able to work. Urgent action is needed to prevent the haemorrhage of senior staff.

Pay cut

‘Year after year of pay erosion has meant the average consultant in England has experienced a real terms take-home pay cut of nearly 35% since 2008-09. This has been allowed to happen because the supposedly ‘independent’ pay review process has been constantly interfered with by Government’.

The indicative ballot opens on 10 February and closes 17 days later. This consultative ballot will be open to all consultants working for the NHS in England who are BMA members. 

BMA consultants committee chairmanan Dr Vishal Sharma said: ‘Senior doctors are cutting their hours or leaving the NHS in their droves, driven out of jobs they love by unfair pension tax rules and brutal cuts to their pay. This is having a catastrophic impact on the country’s health as waiting lists for treatment spiral out of control and patients struggle to get the care they need.

‘Unless there is action by Government to address consultants’ concerns, waiting lists will simply continue to hit new record highs and staff shortages will only worsen as more senior doctors leave the NHS. 

‘The only way out of this crisis is to fix pay, fix pensions and fix the pay review body.

‘Consultants would not take industrial action lightly. But in the absence of meaningful solutions from Government, we’ve been left with no option but to consult our members’ views on whether they wish for us to hold a formal ballot for industrial action.’

Parliement’s Health and Social Care Committee has described the pension tax crisis driving doctors out of the NHS a ‘national scandal’ contributing to ‘the greatest workforce crisis in its history’.

But the BMA says despite the union outlining the necessary solutions, the Government refuses to fix it.

‘The BMA believes it has been left with no choice but to consult its members in England to determine their views on whether they would be prepared to take industrial action.’