BMA to consult GPs in January on improved NHS pensions offer

The government's final offer for NHS pensions will hit GPs 'very hard' despite an improved accrual rate, the BMA has warned.

Dr Hamish Meldrum: 'Despite some improvements to the original offer, doctors stand to be hit very hard by these changes'
Dr Hamish Meldrum: 'Despite some improvements to the original offer, doctors stand to be hit very hard by these changes'

The offer was announced on Monday, ahead of chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander’s formal announcement, expected on Tuesday. More detail will be available on the final offer once Mr Alexander has made his statement.

According to a BMA spokesman the offer, which is separate to recent discussions on increased pension contributions, includes a better accrual rate of 1/54 for the proposed new scheme. The BMA will consult members in early January to help determine the next steps.

Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said this new accrual rate will mean that GPs will receive a ‘bigger’ pension than they would have done under the government's previous offer of 1/60.

With an accrual rate of 1/54, a GP who worked for 30 years, with a yearly income of £100,000 would receive an annual pension of £55,500.

With an accrual rate of 1/60, a GP who worked for 30 years with a yearly income of £100,000 would receive an annual pension of £50,000.

‘This is a further concession from the government,’ Mr McPhail said.

However, the BMA spokesman said there would also be greater penalties for people who choose to retire before normal retirement age.

GP Dr David Bailey, deputy chairman of the BMA's pensions committee said the offer was clearly ‘not a good deal’ for GPs.

He said that an increase in contribution rates could see some GP partners paying as much as 28.5% in employer and employee contributions before tax, from 2015.

‘That’s a massive amount and new GP partners could end up paying it from the ages of 30 to 68,’ Dr Bailey said.

Young doctors and young GPs will be the worst hit by the changes and Dr Bailey said he suspected they would be ‘very angry’ about the reforms.

'The worst off are GP partners under 35 who will be hit by a double whammy of a worse pension scheme and increased contributions,' he said.

Dr Bailey said there was unlikely to be any further negotiation from the government over the offer.

‘Its clear that this is the final offer on the table,’ he said.

Members of the BMA pensions committee, including Dr Bailey, will be going on the road in the New Year to ensure all BMA members understand the impact of the deal prior to a consultation on the offer.

‘We’ll be trying to get out to as many of our members as we can,’ Dr Bailey said.

Responding to the offer, BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'Throughout negotiations, the BMA and other health unions have repeatedly made the case that the NHS pension is already fair to both staff and taxpayers. The scheme was radically overhauled only three years ago, and is currently providing a positive cashflow to the Treasury.

‘We are extremely disappointed that the government has refused to concede this. Despite some improvements to the original offer, doctors stand to be hit very hard by these changes. Junior doctors in their twenties would have to work until the age of 68 and pay over £200,000 more in additional pension contributions.

‘We will now seek our members’ views on the offer, and – if they consider it unacceptable – on what action they would be prepared to take. It is crucial that all doctors and medical students tell us their views. It’s their future, their pension, and we want them to have their say.’

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers described the offer as a ‘significant step forward’ that will bring an end to uncertainty over industrial action.

‘A positive industrial relations climate, built on partnership working, has served our patients, staff and employers very well for decades. Although new challenges may emerge during these discussions, it is essential we preserve these relationships – we owe that to our patients,’ he said.

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