Problems with Primary Care Support England (PCSE) - outsourced to private company Capita since September 2015 - have worsened since NHS England withdrew a management team tasked with improving the service, the BMA has said.
When GPs report delays, the BMA 'escalates' their case via NHS England, which in turn raises the issue with the PCSE service. But this process has 'significantly slowed down recently', the BMA warned.
BMA GP committee premises and practice finance lead Dr Ian Hume said: 'Pension payments are deferred pay, and for GPs who have given years of service to the NHS, any delays in receiving these due to clear failings of the administrative system are nothing short of scandalous.'
Capita advises GPs to submit pension applications at least 105 days before their intended retirement date to ensure data can be processed. It warned that 'incomplete or missing documents can result in a delay to pension applications being approved and processed'.
The BMA's latest challenge over the standard of PCSE services comes after it stepped up pressure on Capita with a series of freedom of information (FOI) requests, which included demands for details of the proportion of GPs whose pension records are up to date, and the value of unallocated payments.
Long-standing GP concerns about the service led by Capita saw the English LMCs conference last November demand that the company be stripped of its PCSE contract, and that the service return to public-sector provision.
Dr Hume added: 'Two years after NHS England gave Capita responsibility for PCSE services, they are still failing to achieve their most basic functions, and this is having a serious negative impact on both patient care and our members’ finances. And since NHS England stood down its management team dealing with Capita we have seen the situation deteriorate further.
'Ultimately, NHS England is responsible for the commissioning of these services, and it must act now to end this shambolic system that puts patients at risk and leaves doctors facing the prospect of hardship.'
Problems with pension payments were highlighted by a West Midlands GP who hit out on social media at having waited 30 working days and counting after his retirement for any pension pay, despite his LMC saying it had escalated the issue via NHS England, Capita and the BMA. Dr Martin Wilkinson called the delay an 'utter disgrace'.
Neither Capita, the BMA nor NHS England could comment Dr Wilkinson's case specifically.
NHS England said earlier this year that it had been working closely with the BMA and was 'committed to resolving these issues as quickly as we possibly can'.
A Capita spokeswoman said: ‘PCSE is responsible for administering pension documents on behalf of NHS England. We ensure forms have been completed properly and all required information has been provided by the GP.
'Once PCSE has confirmed that the application is complete, and the necessary documentation has been received, the application is sent to the approving authority (NHS England or delegated CCG) for approval. Only when applications have been approved can they be sent to NHS Pensions for processing. Incomplete or missing documents can result in a delay to pension applications being approved and processed. We work directly with GPs where incomplete applications are received.’
'PCSE continues to work closely with NHSE and the BMA to help increase practitioners’ understanding of the correct pensions processes to follow. As has always been the case, we rely on practitioners providing the required information to us in order to progress their request and queries as quickly as possible. ‘We are committed to transforming locally-managed operations into a modern and efficient service for NHS England and all primary care organisations.’
Dr Wilkinson told GPonline that some pension documentation he had submitted prior to Capita taking over control of PCSE appeared to have been lost.
'I have submitted all the annual type 2 superannuation forms on time in the past so not sure why they went missing. I have resubmitted more than once,' he said.
Dr Wilkinson said communication had been poor, and that changing systems had created a 'very confusing' situation for GPs. 'It is over-complicated, very confusing, forever changing, lack of communication. It is improving, but Capita have held the contract for over two years and they only just appear to be understanding the complexity.'