Doctors taking part in the "pointless" strike today will achieve nothing, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has warned.
Addressing healthcare managers at the annual NHS Confederation conference in Manchester yesterday (20 June), Lansley criticised the British Medical Association (BMA) for not engaging in the pension negotiations and choosing to "ignore" the economic and financial realities.
Lansley said the industrial action taken by the BMA seeks a less fair pension deal for "NHS staff overall" – something he doubts would give doctors public sympathy.
"We cannot prioritise doctors over every other public sector worker in the country when they have one of the most generous pension schemes out there," he said.
"If we left the contribution rates of doctors unchanged, then a nurse earning £30,000 a year could see his or her take home pay fall by around £100 per month simply to cover that shortfall."
He also criticised the BMA for mis-selling the action to doctors.
"The BMA persistently tells its members that they need to strike to get the government to listen – let me be clear there will be no enhanced pension offer to the one we have on the table," he said.
"We have listened and we have negotiated, which lead to an improved pension offer. We need to tell BMA members that some of what their organisation has told them is wrong."
He called upon doctors to think again about the action, which he claims will "inevitably damage services for patients".
"Let me be clear, the strike is pointless, it will achieve nothing," he said.
"All the BMA is doing is creating uncertainty, discomfort and difficulty for patients – most of whom could only dream of getting a pension like theirs."
The Chairman of the BMA Council Dr Hamish Meldrum slammed Lansley's "repeated and blatantly misleading comments" and said the thousands of doctors striking proves his "unwillingness" to listen to their concerns.
Also speaking at the conference, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation Mike Farrar said whatever the rights and wrongs of NHS pension reform, "patients shouldn't be dragged into an argument that is essentially between doctors and the government."