NHS hit by doctors’ industrial action

Doctors are striking over their pension arrangements today, leaving many patients facing delayed operations and procedures.

Only non-emergency operations are affected, alongside routine hospital appointments, in the first industrial action by doctors in nearly 40 years. At least 80% of secondary care organisations postponed non-urgent care in advance of the strike.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is leading the action, but has insisted that patient safety is its main priority. Emergency care will be provided as doctors are remaining in their workplaces throughout the day.

Their boycott of non-urgent care follows the collapse of talks with the government after last autumn's 'final offer' on public sector pensions by ministers.

Parallel negotiations have taken place with each of the main unions since then. Doctors have got a worse deal than most, BMA chairman Hamish Meldrum claimed.

He told the Today programme there was "inherent unfairness" in the public sector scheme after the 2008 pay deal.

That saw the retirement age increase from 60 to 65 for new joiners, but their pension increased significantly. Tax relief arrangements meant the cost of contributions for existing members remained broadly similar.

Dr Meldrum said: "It still can't be fair that for instance a consultant on one salary pays almost double what a civil servant on the same salary pays for the same pension."

Independent pensions consultant John Ralfe told the same programme: "The current arrangements work in favour of hospital consultants and give them a very generous pension on a like-for-like basis.

"If you look across the whole of the public sector, it is true hospital consultants will be significantly worse off under the new arrangements – but the only reason for that is the current pension is so very generous."

The action began at midnight and will last for 24 hours.