NHS pension reforms 'allow government to impose changes', warns BMA

Government reforms would leave the NHS pension scheme open to retrospective changes made by the government without negotiation, the BMA has warned.

BMA: pension reforms open door to changes imposed by government
BMA: pension reforms open door to changes imposed by government

Submitting evidence to the House of Commons Public Service Pensions Bill committee on Tuesday, BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter warned that reforms could leave the NHS pension scheme open to changes ‘at the stroke of a pen’.

Dr Porter said that the Public Service Pensions Bill, which sets out plans for a new NHS pension scheme from 2015, had the potential to allow the government to make 'unnegotiated' changes to the scheme in future.

Dr Porter said: ‘One of our major concerns about the bill is the potential that it writes in for future retrospective and unconsulted changes to be made to what is described as a 25-year settlement.’

Dr Porter described the clause which allows the government to make changes without negotiation as ‘Henry the Eighth legislation’.

Dr Porter defended the BMA’s stance against the link between the NHS pension age and the state pension age. But he admitted the new scheme would not necessarily force GPs to retire at 68.

‘A number of allegations have been made that the introduction of the scheme coming in 2015 would require people to work to the age 68. I’ve always argued against that.

‘However the issue there is the economic incentive, what it does to people's expectations and careers. Even if someone would want to retire at 60 or 65 [the pensionable ages of the existing schemes] you’d have to take a large actuarial reduction on your existing pension to be able to do that.’

Dr Porter also questioned the effectiveness of the DH Working Longer Review, which is looking at what effect linking the NHS pension age to the state pension age would have on NHS employees.

‘The bill moves ahead to entrench the link between the normal pension age and the state pension age without allowing for the consideration of the Working Longer Review and puts in place things that could countermand and overrule any of the conclusions the review could come to,’ Dr Porter said.

The Public Service Pensions Bill is currently at committee stage – where evidence can be submitted and debated on. It is expected to report to the House of Commons by 22 November.

The BMA is currently asking members to lobby their MP on the Bill.

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