BMA Ballot and Striking Doctors June 2012

31 May

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

Thomas Jefferson

This week the BMA announced the result of the ballot for industrial action by UK Doctors. One can argue about the turnout, but nearly half those eligible to vote did so. The vote results in clear support for industrial action. Many have pointed out that this is the first such action since 1975 by UK doctors.

Now the floodgates have opened with scorn poured on the medical profession for daring to limit their availability for all but urgent cases. Accusations of greed, selfishness, unprofessional conduct and so forth have been made in the country’s print, radio and television media. Twitter was swamped with messages for and against for a while on Wednesday 30th May soon after the announcement.

All of this is predictable.

To BMA members who did not vote and do not approve I ask: “why are you a member of a Trade Union?”

To politicians who stridently criticise the additional delay in elective surgery I ask: “why do you tolerate 18 week waiting lists?” and “why did you agree to the extra Bank Holiday this Jubilee Year?”

To my patients and fellow citizens who denounce the action I ask: “if not now, when should we stand against the steady destruction of my once noble profession?”

Television drama, the internet, novels, newspapers etc have demystified much of medical practice. However, nothing properly conveys the sacrifices made to reach the necessary level of skill to service the community for 30 years or more in the chosen role.

In the final analysis, doctors are being robbed with the new pension arrangement. Generations of medical people have paid into the pension pot which is now in surplus and adeqately covers the forecast pensions at their current level. This is money paid by past generations so future ones who survive to retirement can live comfortably. Yes, this is probably better than many (low-paid) public service employees. The pension amount is a fixed fraction of earnings – if one gets a good income for NHS work, there will be a significant amount in the pension pot. Doctors have been paid well – some argue not well enough while others will always say we earn to much. Whatever! I repeat – the NHS Pension Authority takes a fixed fraction of doctors’ income for their pension. This government wants to take a larger fraction and force the pension payment to be less while the present fund is in surplus.

I say again – this is robbery and I, along with my colleagues, want the British public to learn the truth about this Government‘s skulduggery.

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Jim McManus blogs on public health, ethics, books, theology and more