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Employed GPs may lose on pension

BMA solicitors are preparing for lengthy legal wrangles over pension rights for GPs whose employment is switched to private providers.

An investigation has been sparked by concerns over pension arrangements for GPs employed by the KernowDoc out-of-hours co-operative in Corn- wall, whose jobs were transferred to Serco Health after it beat the co-operative in a tender process.

Doctors working for the company receive a stakeholder pension with matched contributions up to 6 per cent but GPs had previously received 14 per cent under KernowDoc.

Only GPs directly employed by the organisations, and not those undertaking shifts on a freelance basis, are affected by the investigation.

A BMA spokesman said the case would have national implications and was being seen as a test case.

'It's going to happen elsewhere in the country, it's just that it's popped up there and we're investigating what rights for pensions the people employed there have,' said a spokesman.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LMC said PCTs had a moral obligation to ensure transferred employees received equivalent pension rights 'whether or not it's a legal requirement'.

Dr Robert Harvey, LMC vice-chair, said: 'We understood that KernowDoc staff had been assured equivalent working conditions.

'To suddenly announce that it had been withdrawn is in my view an act of bad faith.'

The situation is complicated by debate over whether rules set out in a Government document, Fair Deal for Staff Pensions, will apply as KernowDoc itself became a private company 18 months before the transfer.

Peter Curnow, out-of-hours project lead at West of Cornwall PCT, said the three Cornish PCTs had taken legal advice and sought opinion from Government actuaries. He said they were 'very clear' in their view: 'The Fair Deal legislation does not apply in this case because staff working for KernowDoc were never employees of the NHS,' he said.

Serco said it would continue to 'review the options it can

offer staff'.

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