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BMA disputes Government strike figures

Louise Prime

Friday, 22 June 2012

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About three-quarters of GP surgeries operated a normal or near-normal service yesterday and only 8% of doctors participated in the BMA’s day of industrial action, claims the Department of Health. It said that about 2700 elective operations and 18,750 outpatient appointments had to be rescheduled as a result of the action, and 2000 general practice surgeries saw only urgent cases.

Andrew Lansley commented: “In the run up to these strikes our objective has been to minimise disruption for patients. We asked doctors to recognise that their quarrel was not with patients but with the Government. I am pleased that a significant majority of doctors have done just that and maintained services for their patients.

The Health Secretary condemned the BMA’s ‘regrettable’ strike and its consequences, and said it should commit to ensuring that affected patients are seen and treated as soon as possible.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum disputed the Department’s figures on participation in the strike. He said: “Because doctors have been in their places of work as usual, it was always going to be difficult to put a figure on the number taking part - the government’s figures need to be treated with extreme caution.

“Our feedback from the doctors co-ordinating the action on the ground indicates that in England up to a quarter of non-urgent cases have been postponed, and around a third of GP practices have been taking some form of action.”

And Dr Meldrum said the day of action had achieved its target. “Our intention has not been to maximise the impact on patients, but to communicate the scale of doctors’ anger and to encourage the Government back to the table.

“Doctors have sent a strong message that a fairer approach must be found,” he said.

But this conclusion wasn’t accepted by an ‘anonymous GP’ who wrote on Pulse: “I don’t think the BMA are getting the true message across and perhaps this has been an own goal. So what’s next? Surely we need to consider withdrawing our support as a profession from CCGs or prescribing cost savings etc? Morale is already very low and workload/stress very high.”

The BMA will further debate the pensions dispute next week, at its annual national conference in Bournemouth.

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