Relief for locums as freeze on pension '10-week rule' extended for 2021/22

Locum GPs will have longer to declare pensionable income this year after officials confirmed a freeze on the ‘10-week rule’ will continue in 2021/22 due to COVID-19 pressures.

Locums have longer to submit pension forms (Photo: Marko Geber/Getty Images)

Under the 10-week rule, locum GPs have to submit paperwork to NHS Pensions declaring income within 10 weeks of a session worked for it to be counted towards their pension.

Last April the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed to relax the 10-week limit during the first wave of the pandemic as general practice faced workforce and workload challenges.

The National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) reported at the time that practices were struggling to pay locums on time - meaning locums were struggling to hit the 10-week deadline. Locums also faced cashflow problems because of delayed pay.

GP pensions

NHS Pensions officials have now agreed to relax the 10-week rule on GP locum forms A and B for the whole of 2020/21, the NASGP has confirmed.

NASGP chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse welcomed the move, which he said would help to 'take the stress away’ from locums.

An NHS pensions spokesperson told the NASGP last week: ‘The NHS Business Services Authority (NHS Pensions) has confirmed that the freelance GP locum "10 week rule" in respect of submitting pension forms has been suspended for year 2021/22 due to current COVID-related pressures on the GP profession.’

Dr Fieldhouse said the change this time round would offer locums peace of mind that the problems of the first coronavirus peak would not resurface. He said: ‘It shouldn’t have any impact on practices, as they will still have to pay a locum’s invoice on time. It’s inconceivable that a practice would see this is a reason to purposefully delay a locum’s payment.

Locum GP income

‘But, should there be disruption at a practice caused by COVID-19 that does cause a payment to be delayed, this takes the stress away from locums who would be hugely concerned that their pension will be rejected by NHS pensions.’

Locum GPs have come under significant pressure through the pandemic, with more than half experiencing a significant fall in their income during the first wave.

Dr Fieldhouse recently warned that locum GPs were finding it hard to access COVID-19 jabs because of a patchy vaccination rollout, with this group less likely to have had a first dose of the vaccine than GPs in permanent roles.

LMCs last year highlighted that locums had faced significant physical and financial risk because of a lack of support through the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that they should have been prioritised for work over GP returners.

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