The British Medical Association (BMA) will ballot GPs on industrial action over the government's public sector pension reforms but will stop short of strike action.
Members of the BMA Council attending an emergency meeting on 25 February have committed to "urgently" draw up "detailed" plans on the timing of a ballot and the nature of any industrial action that would take place in the event of a 'yes' vote.
A unanimous vote ruled out strike action in a bid to ensure any protests against the government's pension reforms do not cause harm to patients.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chair of the BMA Council, has pledged his commitment to review the risks for patients "at every stage" of possible industrial action.
"The decision to ballot for the first time in 40 years has not been taken lightly," said Dr Meldrum.
"Doctors and medical students have overwhelmingly rejected the current offer, and we've pursued every avenue we possibly could to bring the government back to meaningful talks.
"With no signs of movement, we simply cannot ignore this strength of feeling by medical staff.
"We therefore have no other option but to ballot on industrial action."
The BMA's decision to ballot its members follows last month's (18 January) survey showing 84% of 46,000 BMA members polled rejected the government's latest pension deal, with two-thirds reporting they would be willing to strike if no improvement to the offer is made.
Director of the NHS Employers organisation Dean Royles said the BMA's announcement will be "disconcerting" for patients and "disappointing" for staff who recognise the impact of industrial action on patient care.
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