Doctors have overwhelmingly voted to reject the government’s latest offer on pensions.
Of 46,000 British Medical Association members responding to a survey from the union, 84 per cent said the proposals should be rejected.
Almost two thirds (63 per cent) said they would personally be prepared to take industrial action against the plans.
And more than a third of doctors aged 50 and over said they intended to retire early if the changes went ahead.
The offer announced before Christmas would scrap the final salary part of the scheme, increase pensions contributions and raise the retirement age. But it would phase in the changes more slowly than previous government plans and would also improve the accrual rate.
In a statement, the BMA said an emergency meeting of the BMA council will be held on 25 February to “decide on the options for balloting on industrial action, should there not be a significant change in the government’s position”.
BMA chair Hamish Meldrum said: “The strength and scale of feeling among doctors is abundantly clear - they feel let down and betrayed, and for many this is the final straw.
“Doctors are at the forefront of attempts to save the NHS £20bn, while trying to protect patient care, are in the midst of huge system reform in England, which is causing chaos in many areas, and are about to enter a fourth successive year of a pay freeze. Now on top of this, they are facing wholesale changes to their pension scheme, which was radically overhauled less than four years ago and is actually delivering a positive cashflow to the Treasury.”
Dr Meldrum added: “Forcing doctors to work to almost 70 is one of our most serious concerns as it could put pressure on doctors to work beyond the age at which they feel competent and safe. Industrial action remains a last resort and the government must urgently reconsider its damaging plans.
“The action we are considering is unprecedented in recent decades. This demonstrates the current level of discontent among NHS staff.”
The survey was sent to 130,000 BMA members, giving it a response rate of 36 per cent.
The Royal College of Nursing is also canvassing members for their views on the offer and will meet on 28 February to discuss the results and discuss next steps.
Unison representatives have voted in favour of the plans, but all members are due to vote on a final offer after talks end at the end of this month. However, Unite has already rejected the plans outright.
NHS Employers director Dean Royles said: “Talks are the best way to secure a final deal. The NHS scheme talks are complex involving over a dozen unions so it’s therefore welcome that, along with a number of other unions, the BMA will continue the discussions.
“It is essential that everyone now hammers out an agreement. Let’s concentrate on securing the best sustainable deal, not on industrial action which will always be damaging to patient care.”