Doctors are actively discussing cancelling non-emergency work in protest at changes to NHS pensions.
The British Medical Association has ruled out an all-out strike but is set to ballot members on other forms of industrial action.
The precise forms of action have not yet been decided upon and could include taking all contractual breaks or refusing to engage in commissioning activity.
But there are growing calls from doctors to send the strongest possible message to the government.
Last night, more than 80 GPs and medical consultants held a meeting in the Wirral area at which they expressed support for cancelling clinics or taking a day off work.
Wirral University Hospital Trust’s medical staff committee chairman Stephen Blair, who is also a BMA consultants committee member, told HSJ: “There was a very strong feeling that industrial action of whatever form needed to take place.”
He said no one wanted to harm patients but one colleague had expressed it as: “If Doris has her blood pressure measured tomorrow instead of today, that’s not going to hurt Doris.”
The union’s decision to ballot over industrial action but not to strike was made two weeks ago following a seven hour council meeting.
At the BMA’s consultants committee conference today, Dr Blair asked from the floor: “Will council reconsider the option of withdrawing labour?”
Committee chair Mark Porter questioned “the premise [that] we’ve ruled it out”. He said refusing to maintain non emergency services was “one of the options we’re exploring”. He added: ”We don’t need to reconsider it, we’re currently considering it”. The option was due to be discussed in a private session of the conference this afternoon.
A BMA spokesman clarified the position. “Broadly speaking, we’ve ruled out strike action, involving withdrawing labour.” However, this did not necessarily prevent doctors from cancelling clinics or services, as long as they were on site in the case of any emergencies, he said.
The pensions changes would scrap the final salary element of the scheme, increase employee contributions and raise the retirement age.
The BMA is set to carry out a roadshow to explain the changes and gather feedback from members on what the next steps should be. The roadshow will start on 19 March but no date has been set for when it will end or when the ballot will be held.