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GPC's defeat on pensions could be a deal-breaker

The GPC has failed to win a crucial deal on GPs' pensions after the Government refused its demands for a 15 per cent increase through the contract.

Negotiators admitted they had hit a brick wall in their quest to bring GPs' pensions in line with consultants and close the gap between GPs' earnings and their pension.

The defeat could prove a critical blow to the chances of GPs accepting the contract.

Nine out of 10 GPs told a recent Pulse survey they would consider rejecting the deal if it did not contain a good pensions deal. The GPC had threatened last year that failure to secure a deal on pensions alone could scupper the entire contract and prompt GPs to vote No.

Pensions has been the key sticking point in the contract talks. GPC negotiator Dr

Peter Holden revealed that actuaries hired by the BMA had been divided over what the deal meant.

He said: 'The bottom line is this: two actuaries slogged it out on Tuesday night and there is considerable distance between them about what the pension means and that is an issue we wish to take further.'

Ministers rejected the GPC bid to increase the accrual rate ­ the factor by which GPs' contributions are multiplied to produce the final pension ­ from 1.4 to 1.6 per cent.

The move would have led to the 15 per cent pensions increase for GPs.

The GPC also failed in its bid for an 11 per cent dynamising factor, which increases GP's pension contributions in line with cost of living increases, backdated from 1990. This would have stopped the growing gap between GPs' income and their final pension.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd accused the Government of not listening to the GPC's evidence and said he was 'extremely disappointed' not to get the deal. 'This package will keep some doctors but I think we could have kept more if we had dealt with the dynamising factor,' he said.

The GPC insisted there were improvements in the deal. All NHS income, including GP locum and non-principal work, will be pensionable and backdated to April 2002.

It also estimated the dynamising level would rise by a minimum of 25 per cent over the next three years.

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