GPs face working longer for reduced pension

GPs could receive 'inferior' pensions and be forced to work for longer under plans to reform public sector pensions.

Dr Dearden: government focus on savings means pension changes will be for the worse (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Dr Dearden: government focus on savings means pension changes will be for the worse (Photograph: JH Lancy)

A report by former Labour health minister Lord Hutton, commissioned by the government, has recommended an overhaul of public sector pensions before the end of the current parliament in 2015.

Lord Hutton suggested linking public sector retirement age to the state pension age, a move that would push up the retirement age for GPs in their late twenties to 68 years.

GP Retirement
How links to state pension age will affect GPs of different ages
Current Age Approximate retirement age
Under 30 68
30-40 67
40-55 66
55-56 65
57+ 60

GPs who joined the NHS after 2008 have a retirement age of 65, but Lord Hutton's plans would force GPs whose right to retire at 60 was protected in the 2008 deal to work to 65 for full pension benefits.

The BMA has warned that the changes would be 'unacceptable' and could lead to a rash of early retirements.

A link to the state pension is likely to see GPs' retirement age rise steadily in the coming years. By as early as 2015, all GPs' would have to work until they are 65, rising to 66 in 2018. This would rise again in 2034 to 67 and to 68 in 2044.

The report suggests a new pension scheme is negotiated across the public sector, with increased employee contributions of up to 15.5% for the highest earners - GPs currently pay up to 8.5%.

In addition, pension payments would be uplifted in line with the consumer price index, traditionally a lower measure of inflation than the retail price index, which is used now.

Existing pension scheme members would have their rights protected on pensions accrued to date, but move to a revised deal for future contributions, said Lord Hutton.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chairman of the BMA's pensions committee, warned that the retirement age for young GPs could be forced even higher than 68 if the state pension age was revised again.

He said any new pension scheme would almost certainly be inferior to the current one because the government was looking to save money.

Negotiations with NHS Employers had been ongoing throughout Lord Hutton's report, said Dr Dearden.

Pensions experts said it may not be possible for the government to implement the changes before the next election.

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Lord Hutton's report

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