MORE than 50 hospital doctors and around a third of GPs in the county took part in a UK-wide strike yesterday (Thursday, June 21).

The industrial action was staged by members of the British Medical Association in protest at government plans to reform their pensions.

In Gloucestershire, 18 hospital operations and 16 outpatients appointments had to be cancelled and rescheduled due to the walkout.

GPs involved in the action refused to deal with non-urgent cases at their surgeries, inconveniencing some members of the public.

But emergency services remained unaffected throughout the day and doctors continued to treat seriously ill patients.

Striking doctors are unhappy because they are being asked to work longer and contribute more in return for smaller sums when they retire.

The British Medical Association, whose members voted in favour of a walkout last month, have accused the government of tearing up a 2008 agreement between the two sides.

That agreement saw doctors accept increased contributions and a later retirement age.

However, health secretary Andrew Lansley said patients had been made to suffer ‘unnecessarily’ as a result of the strike – the first by doctors in almost 40 years.

Ahead of the strike action Mr Lansley said doctors had "one of the most generous pension schemes in the country."

Under the government’s new plans, doctors retiring at the age of 68 could be entitled to a maximum pension of £68,000 a year.

Mr Lansley said the reforms were necessary to make the pension regime ‘affordable and sustainable’.

Speaking last Thursday, Dr Sean Elyan, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Director of Medicine, said: "We have worked to minimise disruption for our patients and to avoid last minute cancellations of appointments where possible.

"At 10.20 this morning 56 consultants and junior doctors have chosen to take part in action or part action."

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