Austerity measures are likely to hit most of the public sector in the United Kingdom in the coming months. Just last month, police officers joined together with other public sector workers such as prison officers and immigration officials to protest cuts in pension plans.
Now doctors are taking a stand against changes in pay and pension policies. The British Medical Association announced this week that its doctors plan to strike on June 21. In a vote conducted by the BMA, with a 50 percent turnout, the majority of doctors voted to take action. The vote was conducted in six branches of the large organization, which boasts about 160,000 members, the Guardian reports.
The June 21 strike will include a suspension of routine medical visits and check-ups, but emergency treatments and tests for serious diseases, such as cancer, will continue. A vast majority of GPs, hospital consultants and junior doctors voted in favor of the suspension of non-urgent care.
The strike is in response to changes in pension and pay standards that are expected to go into effect in 2015 in England and Wales. The changes include the age of retirement, which would move up from 65 to 68, as well as raising the amount medical professionals pay into the pension system.
Some doctors are very critical of the move to strike. BBC picked up the story of an BMA member, Dr. Dan Poulter, who decided to quit the organization after the decision to strike. The BBC quoted Poulter as saying:
This is going to damage the reputation of the medical profession and it’s going to hurt patients.
In 2009-10, the average GP was earning £106,000 and, under the new scheme the government set up, the average doctor, on retirement, will receive a pension of £68,000 a year.
We need to be able to afford the pensions and afford to look after people in terms of funding the NHS and it’s important that doctors pay their fair share along with everyone else.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has also stated that the public will not sympathize with the doctors’ strike. NHS officials argue that the doctors are dragging patients into the middle of a debate and endangering effective and efficient care. Furthermore, many officials claim that the pension system for doctors in the UK is one of the best in the world, retaining the same comprehensive pension for new doctors starting their work this year.
Admittedly, medical professionals tend to pay into the pension system at higher amounts, but this measure is set to guarantee that all retirees will receive the £68,000 pension at the retirement age. The strike also comes in the wake of potential and vast changes to medical establishment in the UK.
The BMA has been especially critical of Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposed changes to the NHS system over the last few months. Many doctors fear that Cameron’s hopes for change involve a marketization of the medical field, which will be detrimental to patients and doctors alike.
Cameron’s government has been moving to cut public sector spending over the last two years, causing massive unrest among professionals and citizens.
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