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'Cut pensions and we'll quit'

Government plans to cut GPs' pensions will trigger a wave of retirements which will decimate primary care services, warn GPs. LMCs said thousands of GPs would bring forward plans to retire if pension payouts were jeopardised.

More than 2,600 GP principals in England are over 60, but the number of GPs close to retirement is as high as one in three in some areas.

GPC negotiators began crunch talks with the Department of Health last week vowing not to agree any deal which clawed back pension rises gained since the new contract.

Ministers have said the 30 per cent-plus increase over the last three years is 'unfair', unaffordable and will mean other NHS staff funding GPs' pensions.

Dr Ravi Mene, secretary of Salford and Trafford LMC, said around a third of his GP population were over 55.

'This is anxiety-generating for everybody,' he said. 'Even those who were planning to stay back may not now. Everybody is watching this space.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator and secretary of Leeds LMC, said the city had a large number of Asian doctors close to retirement age and 'a significant number will retire early'.

Dr Vautrey added that cutting pensions would have a knock-on effect on recruitment.

He said: It's not just those who want to retire, it's those who are looking at a long-term commitment to the NHS. One of the good points of working for the NHS is the pension. If anything undermines that, people may look elsewhere.'

Dr Nev Bradley, chair of Wirral LMC, said GPs would not keep working until 65, as the Government wanted, if the pension did not make it worthwhile: 'I think they'll retire en masse.'

Dr Andy Thompson, a GP in Birmingham, said many GPs would go private if their NHS pension was less attractive.

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