Hospital prepares for doctors’ strike

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HOSPITAL chiefs in Bury St Edmunds will be meeting union officials to keep disruption from a doctors’ ‘strike’ to a minimum.

June 21 will see doctors take industrial action for the first time in nearly 40 years, over changes to the NHS pension scheme.

Doctors will still be at work – there will be no picket lines and urgent and emergency care will still be provided – but non-urgent cases will be postponed.

The ‘strikes’ have been called following a ballot by the British Medical Association (BMA).

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury, said: “We have contingency plans in place to ensure that we can continue to provide safe services for our patients during periods of industrial action.

“We will be meeting with the BMA over the coming weeks to discuss the potential impact of this action more fully so that we can keep any disruption to a minimum.”

The BMA said the changes will see doctors paying up to 14.5 per cent of their salaries in pension contributions – twice as much as some other public sector staff on a similar salary in order to receive a similar pension. Some will also have to work up to the age of 68.

Dr Stuart Lowe, an intensive care consultant and BMA representative at the hospital, said: “There was an overwhelming but reluctant support to take action. Around 80 per cent voted yes.

“We sat down with the Government two years ago and signed off an agreement in good faith – they have now rescinded on that simply to get more money into the coffers.”

But Central Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter, who has resigned from the BMA over the issue, said: “I think strike action is totally unjustifiable.

“The primary duty of a doctor is to look after patients and this flies in the face of that.”

He said a GP’s average salary was £110,000 and, under the new plans, a newly qualified doctor would get a pension of around £68,000 per year.

“It is not unreasonable to ask for improved pensions contributions from doctors,” Dr Poulter said.