It is with great reluctance that doctors have decided to take industrial action for the first time in 40 years. The strong “yes” vote occurred because the government decided to tear up a fair and affordable deal agreed just four years ago. It has been replaced with a scheme that will see doctors work to at least 68 and pay more – up to twice as much for the same pensions as senior civil servants on a similar salary. This is despite the fact that the NHS pension scheme is not a drain on taxpayers and actually delivers a surplus of £2bn each year. Our overriding priority for the industrial action is patient safety. I totally understand that patients may be worried, but doctors will be in their hospitals and surgeries as usual. You and your family will get care if you need it. Doctors are not asking for special treatment – just for fair treatment.
Dr Hamish Meldrum is chair of the British Medical Association Council.
Doctors receive generous pensions on top of substantial pay for the challenging and important work they do. But, with everyone living longer, GPs just like other public sector workers, need to start contributing a little more towards the cost of their retirement. By going on strike, doctors seem to expect taxpayers to continue to prop up unsustainable deals. According to Hargreaves Lansdown, anyone keen to have a similar deal to that which GPs are trying to protect (about £68k a year when they retire, according to Andrew Lansley) would have to put aside about £1,870 a month. With many people struggling to save for their own retirement, it is unfair to expect them to pay so much towards the cost of these generous deals for GPs. This strike is a hugely disproportionate reaction to moderate and necessary reforms needed to make those pensions more affordable for the taxpayers who currently pick up the bill.
Matthew Elliott is chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.