East London GP Jackie Applebee is one of the doctors taking part in the one-day protest over changes to pensions and working conditions. She tells Channel 4 News why.
Our fight against the attack on doctors' pensions is part of the wider fight against the tax on public sector pensions.
I acknowledge that we're well paid and we are very privileged compared to a lot of other people. I know that some public sector workers earn less than £20,000 a year, and I don’t know how they manage to bring up families on that.
But our dispute is not about pay; it is about pensions. We have all contributed all of our working lives. Pensions are deferred earnings and not a hand out from the government. And we’re now being asked to take a cut in our pension, to work longer, pay more into the pension pot, and get less at the end effectively. Also, we only renegotiated our pensions only four years ago in 2008.
And it's not just doctors – it's public sector workers as a whole. I don't believe that if doctors accepted what the government wants to do to our pensions, that the government will suddenly say; 'Ok you public sector workers can have what the doctors missed out on'. I feel like we're all in it together.
I have been very against the NHS reforms and have been campaigning ever since white paper was published. I think it will lead to the privatisation of the NHS, and that if brought in, we will have a system similar to what they have in the States – an insurance-based system that not everyone is covered by.
We're fighting for the bigger future of the NHS and I think patients understand that. No patients at my practice have complained to me about it. I know it’s inconvenient, but its short term pain, for long term gain.
It's also very inefficient – a lot of people who are covered end up with treatments they don’t need. And those who don’t have insurance don’t get what they need. Whereas the NHS is one of the most cost-efficient health care systems in the developed world.
I also believe that changes to pensions and NHS reforms is not about cost-cutting: the government has the money, but they choose to spend it in other ways. Only a few days ago George Osborne found £80bn to spend on British banks and business. How much are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan costing? And it is well known that the NHS pension scheme is £2bn in surplus.
I do appreciate that industrial action will inconvenience a number of patients on Thursday. But emergency patients will still be seen - I'll be at work as usual. Reports that we are going on strike are inaccurate. We are taking industrial action, but not withdrawing our labour totally. The BMA has advised all GPs to be at their normal place of work.
The big picture
But also, I think you need to see a bigger picture. We're fighting for the bigger future of the NHS and I think patients understand that. No patients at my practice have complained to me about it. I know it’s inconvenient, but its short term pain, for long term gain.
It is true that a higher proportion of younger doctors voted to take industrial action, and they will be affected the worse. But certainly in Tower Hamlets where I work, older doctors feel a sense of solidarity with young doctors.
I see the issue of our pensions as part of a broader attack on the public sector and on the NHS in general. I think the public probably do think that the industrial action on Thursday is just about pensions. But then we haven’t had press coverage on a similar scale to refute the sensational reporting of some papers. We don't have the Daily Mail on our side.
Dr Jackie Applebee works as a GP at the Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust, East London and City Sector.