Doctors in the UK are staging their first industrial action in almost 40 years in a row over pension reform.
Union leaders said their members would only treat urgent cases on Thursday, while health officials claimed just 10 percent of operations were being affected.
The British Medical Association claimed proposed changes to doctors’ pensions were unfair compared with other health professions. But the UK’s Health Minister said the action was “pointless” and that patients should not be dragged into the dispute.
Dr Malcom Willis, a GP from the eastern county of Norfolk, worries that many of his patients have little sympathy and so he decided not to join the boycott.
“My first reaction is ‘over my dead body’. Do not take action against my patients. If you did, I would explain to them what your motivations were and it wouldn’t be pretty.”
There was a mixed reaction among Britons to the industrial action.
“My understanding is that they are still seeing emergency patients, they are just not doing their routine appointments. So it is kind of making a stance but not actually, hopefully, affecting people who are really ill,” said one woman.
Another said: “I think they are pampered in the respect that they’ve got a guaranteed pension. I think its unfair that they should be going on strike and putting the patients at risk.”
With doctors’ pensions estimated to be four times higher than nurses, commentators think that many Britons, who themselves face their own pensions squeeze, will find it hard to muster much sympathy.