Jun 20 2012 By Ian Proctor
SURGERIES and hospitals in Harrow will offer a reduced service tomorrow as doctors stage their first bout of industrial action in nearly 40 years.
Rather than striking and creating picket lines, GPs are likely to turn up for work but refuse to handle anything other than emergency cases, with many practices already having re-arranged routine appointments.
The 24-hour partial withdrawal of labour by British Medical Association (BMA) members in England and Wales is in protest at Government plans to link the age at which NHS staff can claim their pension to the state pension age, which is to rise to 68.
A spokeswoman for the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Northwick Park and St Mark's Hospitals in Harrow and Central Middlesex Hospital in Park Royal, said: "Most of our doctors are not taking industrial action and the handful of doctors taking industrial action will be at their workplace as normal to deliver urgent and emergency care.
"The trust has put plans in place to minimise the impact on services for the BMA day of action.
"Patients attending A&E and patients who are currently being treated within our hospitals will be cared for as normal.
"We have had to reschedule some non-urgent patient appointments, but this affects fewer than 50 patients."
In a statement, NHS North West London said: "Although members of BMA are taking industrial action this Thursday, all emergency and urgent care will be provided.
"All GP surgeries will be open as usual but some may be providing a reduced service by treating only urgent cases.
"If you have an appointment scheduled for June 21 and have not been notified of any change, you should attend.
"If you are ill and require non-urgent treatment, contact NHS Direct at www.nhs.uk or call 0845 4647."
The BMA - which last staged industrial action in 1975 - argues the proposed pension changes fly in the face of a 2008 agreement that NHS workers could retire at 65 and said "it believes the Government has mishandled the situation by failing to enter into genuine negotiation on the further changes now being imposed on top of the 2008 negotiated reforms".