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The Government has ignored all the BMA's arguments and is pressing ahead with the biggest change in NHS pensions since 1948 ­ Rob Finch reports

The BMA has admitted it has almost no chance of overturning Government plans to raise the retirement age for doctors from 60 to 65.

The change is the most controversial element of the NHS Pensions Review, published this week. It means younger GPs will have to work five years longer than their older counterparts to get the same pension. GPs aged between 30 and 40 are likely to be worst affected.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA pensions committee, said ministers had ignored all of its arguments against the move. He added there was no point in taking strike action in protest at the change as the Government would postpone a final decision until after the next election.

'One or two of the trade unions have talked of strike action. Industrial action is only an option if you think it's going to change someone's mind,' he said.

Dr Dearden added: 'After you have rehearsed all the arguments and they still haven't changed their mind you have to find new arguments or look at minimising the impact of the changes.

'It smacks of trying to save money. It's better to incentivise doctors to stay in their jobs rather than punish them to go past 60.'

Other proposed changes in the consultation document published by NHS Employers include shifting all NHS staff on to a career-average pension and allowing 25 per cent of pensions to be taken as a lump sum.

The changes would come into effect from mid-2006 for new members to the scheme. GPs already in the scheme would not be affected until until 2013

Dr Dearden said GPs could also lose out if a career average earnings scheme which used a single dynamising factor was imposed across the NHS.

At present GPs have their own dynamising factor which takes into account their faster-rising average earnings.

Tim Sands, NHS Employers pensions project manager, said GPs could be allowed to keep their own factor, but all decisions rested with the Government.

Dr Paul Payne, a GP in Bristol, said said he would leave the NHS now if the changes were being introduced immediately.

He said: 'As a 59-year-old I don't feel threatened but as a 49-year-old I would be alarmed. I think a lot of

people will still opt out and go at 60.'

Andrew Leal, a partner at medical accountants Percy Gore & Co, said the Government would 'have a riot on

its hands' if it unpicked the pension deal GPs were promised under the new GMS contract.

Key changes proposed to NHS pension arrangements

·Retirement age increased from 60 to 65

·Probable move to career average earnings scheme across the NHS ­ possibility that GPs could lose their unique dynamising factor based on increases to profits in favour of an NHS-wide factor based on inflation

·Up to 25 per cent of pension could be taken as lump sum on retirement

·Unmarried and same-sex partners would benefit from survivor payments

·Pensionable re-employment available without exceptions ­ previously only available on grounds of ill-health or below the age of 50

·Option to 'draw-down' part or all of pension while continuing to work

·Actuarial pensions enhancement if you retire after age 65

·New arrangements would come into effect from 2006 for new members of the scheme

·Protection for those already in the scheme who want to stay on their current arrangements until 2013

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