Doctors have voted overwhelmingly in a landmark ballot to take industrial action over pensions, with 78% of GPs voting for action short of a strike and 63% prepared to take part in full strike action.
A total 104,544 members were balloted with 52,250 voting, a 50% turnout. There were six separate ballots covering different branches of practice across the UK: general practitioners; consultant doctors; junior doctors; staff associate, specialist and specialty doctors; occupational medicine doctors; and public health and community health doctors. The ballots opened on Monday 14 May and closed at 5pm on Tuesday 29 May, 2012.
Across all groups 84% of those who voted backed proposals for industrial action short of a strike, and 72% backed full strike action. GPs were the least supportive of industrial action. 18,000 consultants were more supportive with 84% supporting industrial action and 73% supporting strike action.
Junior doctors, who stand to be most affected by the proposal, were behind strike action in the highest numbers with 92% supporting industrial action and 81% supporting strike action.
The last time doctors took industrial action was in 1975, when consultants worked to rule over a contractual dispute, and junior doctors kept their working week to a 40-hours. This was due to dissatisfaction with the progress of contract negotiations at the time. There has not been any form of industrial action since then by the medical profession. This result demonstrates the level of discontent with the pension reforms.
The form of industrial action proposed by the BMA would involve doctors providing all urgent and emergency care, but postponing non-urgent cases for one or more 24 hour periods.
Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: "As the BMA council now meet I really want them to put patients at the centre of their decision-making. They 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."
He added: "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. It’s a tough decision for the BMA council but they should do the right thing for patients.
The date of the strike has been announced as Thursday 21st June.
Full results here >>