Doctors will today debate whether to call for another day of industrial action over the government’s controversial pension reforms.

The British Medical Association’s annual conference will discuss last week’s strike action as the new head of the BMA is also due to be elected today.

The current chair of council Dr Hamish Meldrum will step down today after five years in the job.

Members of the BMA will debate whether doctors should participate in a second day of action to try a force a Government U-turn on pensions.

Last week GPs and hospital doctors staged their first industrial action in almost 40 years in protest at the reforms.

Dean Royles, the director of the NHS Employers organisation, urged doctors to avoid further protest.

He said: “As the BMA Council meets, I ask that they really put patients at the centre of their decision making and avoid further industrial action.

“The doctors’ strike has pulled NHS patients into a dispute not of their making and no one wants to see that happen again.”

Figures show the action last Thursday hit almost a fifth of GP practices.

Across the country, 2,703 operations were postponed and 18,717 outpatient appointments rescheduled, based on figures from strategic health authorities in England.

The BMA announced the day of action last month after it accused ministers of pressing ahead with “totally unjustified” increases in pension contributions and a later retirement age for doctors.

All non-urgent work was postponed in the affected areas, but doctors said they ensured patient safety was protected.