So the BMA is balloting all it’s members on industrial action over pensions. I can’t help feeling that this is a totally futile exercise. To be fair most of the reasons why this is a futile exercise are not within the BMA’s power to change.
Firstly, of the 250,000 or so fully registered medical practitioners, only about 141,000 are members. The rest won’t even be balloted. Secondly, as previous ballots and surveys have shown the return rate is likely to be very low. Finally of those who do respond, there will be a wide spread of opinion, from those wanting a full blown and total strike, to those who will refuse to contemplate any form of action which will adversely affect patients. The BMA’s suggestion of action ensuring emergency services will be unaffected is half baked, neither one thing nor the other, and will be totally ignored by the government, even if the BMA could get the medical profession to go through with it. It will not improve our standing with the public and will be ineffective in it’s objective of getting a rethink on pensions.
Add to that the fact that doctors whose pension date is in the not too distant future will be unlikely to want to man the picket lines in support of their younger colleagues. Let’s face it traditional industrial action just ain’t gonna happen, and the BMA knows it. They’re just going through the motions.
But there is a form of action which would almost certainly gain the full support of most doctors, which would be sustainable indefinitely, and not affect patients at all. Revalidation. The BMA could recommend that all doctors refuse to involve themselves with revalidation, or even appraisal, until such time as the government revisits the pension situation. This recommendation would, I think, be taken up enthusiastically by the great majority. It’s a win/win situation. If the government caves in then the pensions could be salvaged. If they dig their heels in then revalidation would be fatally holed below the waterline. After a while, with most of us refusing to play, the whole concept would quietly slip beneath the waves.
Going down this path would show that the BMA take their role seriously and actually do have some muscle to flex. But let’s face it, they won’t. The high ups in the BMA don’t want to jeopardise their gongs now do they.