Doctors should not feel tied to further strike action if the government does not compromise on plans to remove their pensions, according to the medic expected to become the British Medical Association’s new leader.
Speaking to HSJ, BMA consultants committee chair Mark Porter said the doctors strike last week had been a “valuable way of getting our cause before the British public”.
He said: “We feel the thing we achieved last Thursday commanded the public attention for long enough to feel confident the public knows what we are on about.”
But Dr Porter said because that method had been adopted once it did not mean “you have to carry on doing that”.
The BMA’s next move in the dispute will be discussed at its annual representative meeting on Thursday, and subsequently at a BMA Council meeting. The union has reiterated calls for the government to make concessions.
The council will elect a chair to replace Hamish Meldrum on Thursday and, although there are three candidates, Dr Porter is strongly expected to be chosen.
Dr Porter said: “We will continue that review process but I don’t think we are required to carry on simply because we started doing that particular thing.”
Asked whether he agreed with the view of outgoing chair Hamish Meldrum that the BMA should be very cautious about further industrial action, he said: “We should be cautious about things that appear to harm patient interests and could harm trust between doctors and the public.”
Meanwhile, Dr Porter called on the government to immediately confirm that doctors will be funded for additional training and education required – known as “remediation” - as a result of doctors’ revalidation. The first stages of medical revalidation are due to begin on 3 December following years of delays, but Dr Porter said it may be blocked again if remediation funding is not resolved.
It is a particular concern for GPs who want to be reimbursed for backfill cover for any time they have to take out of practice to train.
Dr Porter said the BMA was having “frank discussions with the Department of Health” on the subject.
He said: “I don’t see how it’s possible for it [revalidation] to happen if that is not resolved. You can’t go [out of work for training] if it causes the collapse of the service you are working for.”
Dr Porter also discussed the vote by BMA representatives on Monday that it must campaign for the repeal of the Health Act.
He said it was unlikely any party would pursue the policy of repeal, but the union would battle for “formal or effective repeal”.
Dr Porter said: “The Labour party has refused to commit itself to repeal the act.” He said instead the opposition were more likely to “articulate a different vision which they want to put in its place”.
He said in general the BMA should campaign to “promote the components that make up a truly national health service, combined with reminding government they have indulged in a very risky venture” in the act.