Pension row may force GPs to quit

GPC urges the government to tread carefully to avoid retirements among GPs.

Dr Holden: keep GP pension intact (Photograph: Malcolm Case-Green)

If the government makes public sector pensions unattractive many doctors could retire, the GPC has warned.

Former work and pensions secretary Lord Hutton is carrying out a review of public sector pensions, after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said many of the schemes were unfair and unsustainable.

But GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden warned the government that undermining pensions could push a 'heck of a lot' of doctors to retire. 'There is a big cohort of us who became GPs around 1980 when general practice first became a specialty in its own right,' Dr Holden said.

'There is a retirement bulge in the system of GPs in their mid to late 50s. The government has to be careful because if it makes it too unattractive the people in that bulge will say: "We will take what we have got and go". And that would put the staffing situation in difficulties.'

Dr Holden said that the BMA is preparing to look at the outcome of the Hutton review. But he was not expecting any surprise changes to the GP part of the NHS pension scheme.

'I'm pretty sanguine on the grounds that in the past three years in general practice we have done pretty much everything that Hutton is looking at anyway,' he said.

The comprehensive spending review last month confirmed the government's commitment to make £1.8 billion of savings a year in public sector pensions by 2014/15. It said it would make 'progressive changes' to the level of employee contributions - the nature of which will be determined once Lord Hutton's final recommendations have been made.

A DoH spokeswoman said: 'Public sector workers will continue to be offered a benefit pension and the government will work with the NHS unions to implement any changes to the NHS Pension Scheme.'

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