Delegates at the British Medical Association (BMA) Junior Doctors conference on Saturday, against the advice of their leaders, voted overwhelmingly to demand health secretary Lansley’s resignation.
In his conference address, Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) Chair Dr Tom Dolphin said that following the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill: ‘We will be watching out for the manifestation of the problems we warned of.’
After expressing concerns for ‘the state of training in the post-Health and Social Care Act’, he went on to say: ‘But no issue has been so all-consuming this year as pensions.
‘Most of us, until recently, have not given much thought to our pensions – why would we? It is, after all, a long way off for most of us.
But don’t be fooled – the government is relying on this lack of immediacy in the hope that we will not really put up too much objection. But we must put up a fight.’
Dr Dolphin said: ‘With £9,000 tuition fees you will be facing debts on graduation of up to 70K. . . . With salaries frozen for many years your starting salary will have been eroded by inflation.
‘And on top of that you will be faced with increased pension contributions.
‘The burden of austerity is falling too hard upon the shoulders of the younger generation and we are seeing this in medicine, as well.’
He urged junior doctors to vote Yes/Yes to the two questions on the ballot paper, which are:
‘Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike.
‘Are you prepared to take part in a strike.
Dr Dolphin concluded: ‘Don’t be embarrassed to defend the 2008 pension deal, because the government certainly isn’t embarrassed about reneging on it. If you wait until you are a pensioner to take notice, you’ll be forty years too late to do anything about it. Vote Yes/Yes today.’
Conference went on to debate motions starting with the Health and Social Care Act.
Motion 1 by WESSEX RJDC stated: ‘That this conference
(i) believes that passing of the Health and Social Care Bill is detrimental to the care of patients;
(ii) deplores the government for failing to listen to the healthcare professionals;
(iii) deplores the government’s lack of transparency in not publishing the risk register to facilitate an informed debate; and
(iv) calls for the resignation for the Secretary of State for failing the British public.
Linked Motion 2 by NORTH THAMES RJDC stated: ‘That this conference has no confidence in the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, and calls for him to resign.’
Moving these motions, Dr Bala Karunakaran, UK Junior Doctors Committee (UKJDC) member, said: ‘March 2012 has become a sad month for the NHS. The Health Bill became an Act.
‘When the White Paper was published and we noticed numerous areas of concern, we made the mistaken decision of critical engagement with the government and not opposition.’
He added that many health organisations and the trade unions had opposed the Bill.
‘In the face of this opposition, the government decided to pause.
‘They paused, they listened and carried on with it anyway.
‘They did not publish the Risk Register.
‘MPs we trusted went ahead and voted for the Bill without knowing all the facts. That’s disgraceful.
‘The government hasn’t listened to the country.
‘Andrew Lansley, because of your discourtesy we have lost confidence in you and you should be sacked. So please resign.’
Supporting the motions, Dr Eleanor Draeger from the Conference Agenda Committee told delegates:
‘During the MTAS (Medical Training Application Service) campaign (in 2007), Lansley said he would listen to junior doctors.
‘When they got into power, they did not listen to anybody.
‘One MP told me “we are going to push it (the Health Bill) through anyway”.
‘This has lost any confidence in you Lansley – resign!’
The conference voted overwhelmingly for all parts of Motion 1 despite JDC chair Dolphin and BMA Council Chair Hamish Meldrum urging delegates to vote against the Lansley resign clause (iv).
Delegates also voted overwhelmingly for Motion 8 by CONFERENCE AGENDA COMMITTEE, that stated: ‘That this conference
(i) believes that in negotiating the 2008 NHS pension scheme, the BMA has ensured the scheme is fair and equitable to both tax payers and members;
(ii) believes that the government is attempting to deliberately mislead NHS workers and the public about the scheme;
(iii) commends the Association and the profession for having the courage to consider industrial action which maintains patient safety;
(iv) calls on the Association to do whatever is necessary to defend the scheme whilst maintaining patient safety; and
(v) calls on the government to abandon the proposed changes to the scheme.
Mover Marion Matheson, co-chair BMA Medical Students Committee, said: ‘The government’s justification for changes to our pensions makes my blood boil.
‘Doctors are so angry they are to ballot for industrial action.
‘Why is the government changing our pension for the worse? The new scheme is cash generated for the government.
‘For a worse pension we will be working 48 years, paying 14 per cent of our salaries.
‘As a medical student in my twenties, the amount I’ll be paying is equivalent to buying a house.
‘I call on the BMA to do whatever is necessary to defend our pensions.
‘Vote Yes/Yes to taking industrial action.
‘After an increase in tuition fees of 300 per cent we have to defend our pensions.’
Speaking in support, Miss Tracey Barnes, South West Region, said: ‘The government are committing our doctors to working beyond 68.
‘We don’t know how this will affect our ability to work with patients and patient safety.
‘We work long, exhausting hours. What are the government going to do to ensure we work safely at that age.’
Delegates voted overwhelmingly to take action in defence of pensions.
Motion 16 by NORTH WESTERN RJDC rejected local pay.
It stated: ‘That this conference notes with concern the government’s proposals for locally determined public sector pay and believes that Terms and Conditions of Service should continue to be negotiated nationally and consistent across the four nations. We therefore
(i) Call on the JDC to reject any proposals for regional variations to the terms and conditions of service for doctors in training; and
(ii) Call on the Association to provide the appropriate support to Local Negotiating Committees, with increased resources if needed, to deal with the increasing challenges to local Terms and Conditions that they are likely to face.
Mover Dr Louise Harding, North West region, warned: ‘Local pay would undermine national bargaining rights.
‘This is not just bad for doctors, it’s bad for patients.
‘The poorest regions already have difficulty recruiting staff. It will increase health inequalities.’
Supporting the motion, Dr Iain Kennedy, UKJDC, said: ‘This isn’t a spectre on the horizon, it’s a problem right now.
‘As a result of the Health and Social Care Act moving public health to local government will lead to local bargaining.
‘If they’re telling us that workers in the deprived North West are worth less than workers in a leafy southern suburb, it shows the government’s priority.’
Delegates voted overwhelmingly for the motion but accepted clause (i) as a reference back to committee, on the advice of JDC chair Dolphin, though he said: ‘I am opposed to local pay.’
Conference went on to vote for motions demanding the restoration of free on-call accommodation that expressed concern for tired doctors having to drive home after long night shifts; motions calling for reimbursement of travel costs; and funding for doctor training.
One motion expressed anger that fees for the Royal College of Psychiatrists examinations allegedly ‘generated a financial surplus of approximately £600,000.’