The BMA is seeking an urgent meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley to discuss the pensions dispute before it decides on further industrial action.
Following a debate at this week’s Annual Representative Meeting in Bournemouth, during which delegates voted for more industrial action, the BMA council met and decided it would seek an immediate meeting with Mr Lansley as a first step.
The council is scheduled to meet again on July 18, which allows around three weeks in which to meet with the health secretary and to gather fuller information such as detail on how and when negotiations on the next stage of the government’s proposed changes will take place.
The meeting is being sought by Dr Mark Porter (pictured), who was elected as the new chairman of BMA Council yesterday, taking over from Dr Hamish Meldrum, who was chairman since 2007.
Dr Porter, a consultant anaesthetist in Coventry, has been chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee since 2009 and chaired its junior doctors committee between 1997 and 1998.
The decision taken at the conference means Dr Porter has some time in which to secure a meeting with Mr Lansley, but the new chairman stressed that the deferral of a decision on a second day of action did not mean doctors had abandoned their industrial action.
“It was clear from the debates at our annual meeting today that doctors remain angry at the government for tearing up a pensions deal reached only four years ago and which made the scheme sustainable for the future,” said Dr Porter.
“Our preferred option has always been to find a fairer way forward through negotiation and I want to explore that with [Mr Lansley]. I will be writing to him to seek an urgent meeting.”
There are some indications that the government might be prepared to discuss some areas of pension reform.
In a letter to NHS staff council chair Christina McAnea, Mr Lansley said he recognised that trade unions were particularly concerned about the proposed increase in the normal pension age that would be linked to the state pension age. This could mean doctors having to work until they are 68.
Mr Lansley said the implications of the increase in the normal pension age would be considered in the Working Longer Review, commissioned by the Department of Health, and the government had committed to keep the link between the pension ages under review.
Discussions were also needed, he added, about pension contribution rate increases over the next two years.
Following his election as chairman, Dr Porter said: “I’m excited and privileged to be taking on this role at what is clearly a particularly challenging time for the NHS and the medical profession.”