Fresh efforts have begun to try to resume talks on the controversial proposed pension reforms for clinicians and all NHS staff.
The BMA has launched a new e-petition on the government’s website calling for meaningful negotiations to resume on the future of the NHS pension scheme.
If 100,000 people sign the petition, the issue has to be debated by MPs in the House of Commons.
Under the headline of Maintaining a fair and sustainable NHS pension scheme, the petition says: “We urge the Department of Health, in conjunction with the governments of the devolved nations, to reopen meaningful negotiations with health unions to achieve a fair and amicable settlement on the future of the NHS pension scheme.
“The NHS pension scheme is not an unfair burden on taxpayers – in fact, it is currently providing a large positive cashflow to the Treasury. The settlement should reflect the fact that the NHS scheme underwent major changes only four years ago, with staff taking on responsibility for ensuring it is sustainable in the long term.”
Under the plans as they stand, the final-salary scheme would be replaced by a career-average scheme for all doctors, the normal pensionable age would rise to 68, and doctors’ contributions to the pension scheme would increase from April this year.
The proposals apply only to England and Wales, but similar offers are expected to be made by the administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
BMA chair of council Dr Hamish Meldrum met with health secretary Andrew Lansley last month to discuss the situation, but talks since then have broken down.
A revised proposal by the government was rejected by the BMA in January following a UK-wide survey of BMA members in which 84% of the 46,300 people responding, rejected the government’s reform proposals.
In addition, almost two-thirds of doctors said they were personally willing to take some form of industrial action against them.
The BMA is holding an emergency council meeting on February 25 and will discuss options for balloting on industrial action if no progress is made by then.
Dr Meldrum said: “Industrial action remains a last resort and the government must urgently reconsider its damaging plans. The action we are considering is unprecedented in recent decades. This demonstrates the current level of discontent among NHS staff.”