The British Medical Association has announced it is “suspending plans for further industrial action” and will join talks between other health unions and government about the detail of pension reform proposals.
The doctors’ union took strike action - in which medics were asked not to provide non-urgent care - over the plans on 21 June. Other health unions - including the Royal College of Nursing and Unison - had already decided against industrial action.
The BMA’s strike was widely judged to be a public relations failure, although the union has cited independent polling showing people were more likely to take its side than that of the government.
A meeting of the BMA Council yesterday decided against further action. A statement following the meeting said the government had already “written to [other] health unions to begin talks to review the impact of working longer and consider the proposed increases to contributions in years two and three and how tiered contributions relate to these”. It says, “council agreed that no further industrial action will be planned at this stage and the BMA will take part in these talks”.
BMA Council chair Mark Porter said: “Industrial action was never our preferred way forward. We would always far prefer to seek changes to the government’s plans for NHS pensions through negotiation and lobbying, rather than taking action that could jeopardise the much valued relationship with our patients.
“We always said that we would review our action in order to determine next steps. Having done that, it is clear that only escalated action has any possibility of causing the government to rethink its whole programme of changes.”
NHS Employers director Dean Royles said: “The NHS will breathe a sigh of relief that there will be no more industrial action for the moment.
“We hope we can use this time constructively. The very threat of industrial action risks patient care, hits confidence in the doctors and strains the workplace relationships that are so important to the quality and safety of our services.”