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CAMHS won't see you now

GPC goes to war over pensions cap

The GPC is to mount a legal challenge to the Government's cap on GPs' pensions on the basis that the move is an 'abuse of power'.

Ministers are claiming a clause in NHS Pension Scheme regulations drawn up in 1995 gives them the right to impose the cap of 48 per cent over five years (see below).

The clause allows the Government to uprate GPs' pensionable earnings 'in the manner determined by the Secretary of State after consulting such professional associations as she considers appropriate'.

But Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA pensions committee, said there was a 'clear assumption' these rules did not apply retrospectively.

He said: 'If they abuse their power, they have to know the BMA will not stand idly by while the Government slides into dictatorship.'

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said negotiators had tried and failed to get the clause removed from the contract.

The GPC accepted its inclusion 'on the understanding it would only be used prospectively', Dr Meldrum said.

Dr Simon Fradd, the former GPC deputy chair who was responsible for drawing up the pension deal, led widespread condemnation of the cap from GPs.

He said: 'They've raided a pension fund. I think that puts them in a class with Robert Maxwell.

'The deal was done and the Government's trying to renege on it. They really can't say they weren't informed.'

Dr Philip Fielding, a GP in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, predicted a 'massive disengagement of professional goodwill'.

He said: 'We'll see more policies failing because we are not going to be played in this way any more.'

Dr Tony Grewal, a GP in Hillingdon, north west London, said: 'It shows GPs what they think of us. That's the truth of it.'

The GPC refused to disclose how it will pursue its case, but said it would consider supporting a test case by a GP (see

above).

Dr Meldrum said he would not push for industrial action, but warned ministers the cap would not endear GPs to already unpopular policies such as Choose and Book.

Lord Warner said he was acting to ensure NHS spending rises went on better patient

care and were not 'creamed off into the pockets of well-paid GPs'.

He added: 'Excessive increases in GP pensions are indefensible. This is an extremely fair response and means GPs will continue to benefit from generous, above-inflation increases in pensions at a time when their profits have also increased substantially.'

hcrump@cmpmedica.com

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