Today's strike: bad news for patients, bad news for taxpayers and bad news for doctors

June 21, 2012 9:22 AM

Today doctors are out on strike for the first time in over 35 years, protesting against proposed reforms to their generous pensions. It appears though that many of them are having second thoughts about the impact of the strike and the reasons behind it. Many more GP surgeries are expected to stay open than was predicted. It’s no wonder they are thinking twice, this strike action is in unjustified in the face of necessary and moderate changes. The retirement deals doctors are seeking to preserve are on average worth far more than the average pay packet so it’s unsurprising that there is little support for the BMA’s decision to call a strike. The action will disrupt patient care and result in the cancellation of planned operations and non-emergency appointments. Doctors will still be paid though, as they will be providing emergency treatment.

There is a battle underway to decide who will pay for the increasing costs of the public sector workforce as they grow old and retire. We’re all living longer which means retirement will cost everyone more, someone has to pay. Should those who benefit from the generous retirement deals pay more towards the cost of them, or should it be ordinary taxpayers, most of whom can only dream of such great deals? As our previous research  has shown, there is a £4 billion black hole in the amount of money paid into unfunded public sector pensions compared to what what they are paying out and that is only going to get worse. It should be down to those who benefit from the scheme to pick up a greater share of the cost of it.

The BMA has been quick to claim that their pension scheme is sustainable as more money is currently paid in than is being claimed by its members.  Taxpayers cannot afford to buy into that spin. They argue that these measures are simply a way of putting more money into the Treasury’s coffers but this ignores the fact that while more money might be going to the Chancellor today, he will have to pay out much more in the years to come. Yes, thanks to an NHS recruitment drive there are currently more people paying into the scheme than claiming their pensions but that is going change, estimates suggesting by just after 2016.  A National Audit Office (NAO) report into public sector pensions points out:
Payments out of the NHS scheme can be expected to exceed contributions in future as this is the natural position for mature schemes in which employers and employees are changed at a level reflecting future pensions being earned

The current estimated cost of paying pension benefits to doctors totals £83 billion. Of that £67 billion is likely to have to come from the taxpayer according to figures from the Government Actuaries Department.  This is why doctors, many of whom who have had staggering pay rises in recent years, must accept changes. Otherwise taxpayers will have to pick up a disproportionate share of the bill.

Doctors do challenging and important work that is held in high regard. They are considered pillars of our communities yet this strike action will severely undermine their standing and credibility. Patient care will be affected while some of the best paid public servants will be out trying to preserve pensions that are out of reach of all but a select few. The strike is bad news for patients, bad news for taxpayers and bad news for doctors’ reputations. The BMA should take the lead and accept these reforms instead of associating themselves with the head in the sand approach to public sector pensions taken by unions such as Unite and PCS.Today doctors are out on strike for the first time in over 35 years, protesting against proposed reforms to their generous pensions. It appears though that many of them are having second thoughts about the impact of the strike and the reasons behind it. Many more GP surgeries are expected to stay open than was predicted. It’s no wonder they are thinking twice, this strike action is in unjustified in the face of necessary and moderate changes. The retirement deals doctors are seeking to preserve are on average worth far more than the average pay packet so it’s unsurprising that there is little support for the BMA’s decision to call a strike. The action will disrupt patient care and result in the cancellation of planned operations and non-emergency appointments. Doctors will still be paid though, as they will be providing emergency treatment.

There is a battle underway to decide who will pay for the increasing costs of the public sector workforce as they grow old and retire. We’re all living longer which means retirement will cost everyone more, someone has to pay. Should those who benefit from the generous retirement deals pay more towards the cost of them, or should it be ordinary taxpayers, most of whom can only dream of such great deals? As our previous research  has shown, there is a £4 billion black hole in the amount of money paid into unfunded public sector pensions compared to what what they are paying out and that is only going to get worse. It should be down to those who benefit from the scheme to pick up a greater share of the cost of it.

The BMA has been quick to claim that their pension scheme is sustainable as more money is currently paid in than is being claimed by its members.  Taxpayers cannot afford to buy into that spin. They argue that these measures are simply a way of putting more money into the Treasury’s coffers but this ignores the fact that while more money might be going to the Chancellor today, he will have to pay out much more in the years to come. Yes, thanks to an NHS recruitment drive there are currently more people paying into the scheme than claiming their pensions but that is going change, estimates suggesting by just after 2016.  A National Audit Office (NAO) report into public sector pensions points out:
Payments out of the NHS scheme can be expected to exceed contributions in future as this is the natural position for mature schemes in which employers and employees are changed at a level reflecting future pensions being earned

The current estimated cost of paying pension benefits to doctors totals £83 billion. Of that £67 billion is likely to have to come from the taxpayer according to figures from the Government Actuaries Department.  This is why doctors, many of whom who have had staggering pay rises in recent years, must accept changes. Otherwise taxpayers will have to pick up a disproportionate share of the bill.

Doctors do challenging and important work that is held in high regard. They are considered pillars of our communities yet this strike action will severely undermine their standing and credibility. Patient care will be affected while some of the best paid public servants will be out trying to preserve pensions that are out of reach of all but a select few. The strike is bad news for patients, bad news for taxpayers and bad news for doctors’ reputations. The BMA should take the lead and accept these reforms instead of associating themselves with the head in the sand approach to public sector pensions taken by unions such as Unite and PCS.

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