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Doctors suspend pensions row action

Doctors have suspended plans to take more industrial action over the Government's controversial pension reforms, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.

The BMA's council, which met in Edinburgh, said further industrial action has not been ruled out but that doctors would prefer to seek change through negotiation rather than more action.

Last month doctors took action for the first time in almost four decades by boycotting non-urgent care.

The BMA announced the move after it accused ministers of pressing ahead with "totally unjustified" increases in pension contributions and a later retirement age for doctors.

The BMA Council agreed to "step up" campaigning, particularly around the increase in retirement age to 68.

A spokesman said: "Since the BMA's action on 21 June, the Government has written to health unions to begin talks to review the impact of working longer and consider the proposed increases to contributions in years two and three and how tiered contributions relate to these.

"While the first increases in contributions were made in April 2012, the other major changes - increasing the retirement age to 68 and ending the final salary scheme - will be introduced starting from 2015."

Council chairman Dr Mark Porter said: "Last month's action enabled thousands of doctors to send a strong and clear message to Government about how let down they felt, while also honouring their commitment to protect patient safety.

"Industrial action was never our preferred way forward. We would always far prefer to seek changes to the Government's plans for NHS pensions through negotiation and lobbying, rather than taking action that could jeopardise the much-valued relationship with our patients.

"We always said that we would review our action in order to determine next steps. Having done that, it is clear that only escalated action has any possibility of causing the Government to rethink its whole programme of changes. The BMA and the profession as a whole are unwilling to do that at this point because of the impact on patients."

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