Doctors are on strike today (June 21) following a dispute over pensions.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said this was the first incident of industrial action taken by its members (who are doctors) in almost 40 years.
The government wants doctors to contribute more towards the cost of their pensions and retire later, which means they could work up to the age of 68.
The industrial action comes after health secretary Andrew Lansley called upon doctors to avert strike action, which he described as pointless.
Lansley admitted that contributions were currently higher than benefit payments, but said that the NHS pension scheme was not in surplus.
He said: “Yes contributions, are currently higher than benefit payments, but they won’t be for much longer. And this comparison ignores the fact that pensions will have to be paid for very many years after members stop paying contributions. This is why we need to make these changes.”
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: “Doctors helped negotiate a major reform of their pension scheme in 2008 that made it sustainable for the future. This included staff, not taxpayers, taking on responsibility for any increased costs due to improving life expectancy.
“The scheme currently brings in £2 billion more than it pays out. Doctors are now being asked to work even longer, up to 68 years of age, and contribute even more, meaning doctors have to pay up to twice as much as civil servants on the same pay for the same pension. Doctors accept the need to play their part in improving public finances. We don’t expect better pensions or preferential treatment, just fair treatment.
“We are not expecting members of the public to support the action, but we hope they can understand why doctors have been driven to this point – for the first time in 40 years.”
For more articles on strike action relating to pensions