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GP leaders in devolved nations demand clarity on NHS pensions

Doctors' leaders in Scotland and Northern Ireland have demanded answers from policymakers on whether the UK Government's pension contribution hikes will hit doctors across the UK, as new research revealed the plans will cost English and Welsh GPs over £200,000 in extra pension contributions.

A new forecast by the BMA, published today, showed that the Westminster plans will see a GP retiring at 68 facing additional pension contributions of up to £230,000 in the course of their career. BMA Scotland and BMA Northern Ireland attacked the Westminster plans as a ‘tax on public sector workers' and called on the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Assembly to clarify whether the ‘significant and imminent' reforms will be applied to the separate Scottish and Northern Irish NHS Pension schemes.

The Scottish Government has previously said that Treasury reforms of public sector pensions are a Westminster, not Scottish Government, policy issue. Yet BMA Scotland said that although Scottish doctors technically belong to a separate pension to their English and Welsh counterparts, it is ‘usual practice' for the Scottish scheme to adopt the same provisions as English and Welsh NHS pensions.

Echoing the fears of Scottish doctors, BMA Northern Ireland said that historically ‘previous changes to the [England and Wales] pension scheme have applied' to Northern Irish pensions. Dr Brian Dunn, a GP in Larne and member of the BMA's Pensions Committee, said:‘The proposals to change the NHS pension scheme are significant and imminent and doctors across the UK need to be aware of the scale of the changes.'

‘Although not technically a reserved issue, previous changes to the pension scheme have applied equally across the UK. It is vital that the Northern Ireland Assembly clearly states its intention regarding the reform of public pensions and decides whether or not these changes will affect health service workers in Northern Ireland.'

Dr Brian Keighley, BMA Scotland chair and a GP in Balfron, said:‘These are unjustifiable changes to financially healthy pension scheme which has already been overhauled.'

‘This isn't about making the NHS pension sustainable in the long term, it already is. This is simply a tax on public sector workers. The NHS scheme is already affordable, yet the Government is asking doctors to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds more for a worse deal on retirement.'

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘While policy responsibility for this issue is primarily reserved to Westminster, we have written to the BMA and other trade unions to meet later this month and discuss, in partnership, proposed pension changes affecting staff in Scotland.'

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