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​NHS apologises as payments delayed due to rising retiree numbers

Exclusive Retiring GPs may have to wait nearly two months to access their pension pots due to a huge backlog at the NHS pensions agency.

The NHS Business Services Authority has apologised to as members wait around six weeks for their pensions to be processed.

Delays have been met with concern among retiring GPs, who worry that they will not be able to access funds when they need them.

The backlog comes whilst NHS England looks into reasons why GPs are retiring earlier, including looking at whether this is linked to a reduction in the lifetime allowance, to £1m, from 1 April 2016.

NHSBSA said that since the introduction of the new scheme the NHS Pensions team has been ’dealing with a large volume of change’.

A spokesperson said: ’Along with the new scheme and the introduction of a new operating system the various tax changes to Annual Allowance and Life Time Allowance have also caused large increases in volume.’

But they claimed that ’the volumes of awards that miss deadlines are low compared to the volume that is being processed’, adding that ’there is often a reason behind the delay - for example missing information’.

The spokesperson added: ’We apologise to any of our members that have experienced a delay and would like to assure them that we are doing everything we can to speed up and improve this part of our process.’

An NHSBSA letter to a retirng GP, seen by Pulse, said: ‘We are currently working in strict date order for practitioners based on the retirement date, we are currently behind but are working hard to try catch up with the workload.

’We will process your award as soon as possible however, we are roughly six weeks behind with processing practitioner awards.’

One retiring GP, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: ‘[Given] that I applied as early as they allow, this makes a mockery of the dates they give on their info, and leaves a sour taste after working full time for 35 years.

‘Retiring has been an incredibly difficult process with all the hoops you have to go through. One jobsworth along the way even said she was giving me permission to stop practising - how they were going to force me to work I can’t fathom.’

Dr David Bailey, the deputy chair of the GPC pensions subcommittee said that the backlog has been caused partly by a new computer system coming in at the beginning of 2016, but partly down to the ‘sheer number’ of practitioners now looking to take their pension early.  

Dr Bailey said: ‘The number of GPs wanting to retire has spiralled significantly. A lot of this is directly attributable to the changes in tax breaks brought in by the Government.

‘While I think that the pensions agency is accurate and there’s no danger of any loss of money, members are perfectly within his rights to be upset to not be able to access funds, and sometimes quite considerable funds, which they have paid in over many years.’

Why are GPs retiring early?

A report into why so many GPs are retiring before the age of 50, commissioned by NHS England, recently found burnout and overwork to be two key components.

NHS England is also looking into the impact of the annual allowance threshold changing.

The annual allowance – the increase in value of a GP’s pension each year before more income tax is charged – was lowered for the highest earners from April.

Previously, the threshold was £40,000 for everyone but the highest earners will soon be paying tax on any pension increases of more than £10,000.

At the same time, the lifetime allowance – the total you can build up in your pension pot without paying tax – reduced from £1.25m to £1m, having previously been £1.8m in 2010.

The NHS pension scheme has 1.5 million members, out of which 60,000 are self-employed GPs or dentists.


Readers' comments (31)

  • "The backlog comes whilst NHS England looks into reasons why GPs are retiring earlier..." they actually need to look into the reasons - I've heard it all now.

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  • I would have thought that the reasons were blindingly obvious!!!

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  • Market forces dear boy. And a whole flock of chickens coming to roost.

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  • not retiring yet, but leaving this scheme while there is still any chance of getting some of the money that I've payed in for 20 years. 'Take advice, buy added years, your money's safe, nothing better than NHS scheme' turns out it was all a lie and money would have been better off under the mattress

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  • They must be complete idiots if they didn't think people would take their pensions early rather than pay tax on both the contributions and above a million due to the tax changes. I had assumed that's why they had done it to get rid of all the older high earning GPs and replace them with something cheaper.

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  • I took 24 hour retirement 5 weeks ago after 3m notice. I have heard absolutely nothing from the pension agency. If a private pension firm acted in such a way I'm fairly certain the government would be trying to close them down .

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  • Maybe making a balls up of pension arrangements is Hunt's new plan to stop people retiring.

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  • It's the beginnings of the perfect storm

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  • Peter Swinyard

    All perfectly good comments above - but why anonymous??? MODERATORS - PLEASE CONSIDER PUBLISHING ONLY NAMED COMMENTS.

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  • Oh Dr Swinyard we have been through this debate many times before about anon comments. People should be allowed to hide if they want - it is up to you to decide whether to read them and how much weight to give them.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • Dr Swinyard if only named comments are published then you have less informed discussions (just look at the GPonline website!) There are many contributors to this forum who have a valid opinion and their own reasons to stay anonymous.

    Sometimes putting names to comments gets you named publically and negatively in the tabloids. Also remember the trainee whose portfolio had open and honest reflections that were held against them in a legal case. Some of us feel too exposed to put our names out there for every comment we make.

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  • Does anyone have any idea as to whether the number of GPs "retiring before the age of 50" (a few years ago, "early retirement" meant before 60..) is the same for the NHS Pensions Agency (GPs taking their pension early) and NHS England (GPs leaving the workforce)?

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  • I previously took 24 hour retirement end of April 2015, retired from my practice end of July 2015, but have continued to work as a locum.
    In spite of submitting my AW8 form in good time my lump sum was paid late, and to make matters worse was paid into an account with a bank where I did not have an account.
    Fortunately the sum of money was not accepted by the bank concerned.
    In spite of complaining I never managed to get to the bottom of what had caused this error to occur.
    It was however clear that there was a great deal of room for error since my pension application required to fill in an AW8 form in paper format, the contents of which (including bank details) were then entered manually by one of the officers at the local PCSS Contractor Payments office, before the details were then passed on to NHS Fleetwood and subsequently to Equiniti in Crawley who eventually make arrangements for the lump sum and pension to be paid.
    So my advice is to apply in very good time and also keep on the case; ie phone NHS Pensions as often as is needed.
    PS I also agree with Dr Swinyard that the majority of GPs should add their details to these posts, DON'T HIND BEHIND ANONYMITY, unless of cause you have something to say which might in some way prejudice your position in the practice where you are working, which would probably be a great shame if the doctor concerned doesn't feel he/ she can speak openly.
    The same applies when I read my local paper where the longest letters often end with "name and address provided".

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  • The erosion of pension protection and introduction of a system that will cause double taxation - on the way in and on the way out - has been one of the most enormous recent social changes. Social in its inevitable consequence for those workers caught up in it. The chancellor of course dismissed any worries as only affecting 1 % of the working population. So that makes it alright then as 99% of workers won,t have to pay.We must assume that the Govt has calculated the likely number of workers who will finish early - as a price well worth paying .If that is correct - then we are all meant to retire early.

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  • ''The backlog comes whilst NHS England looks into reasons why GPs are retiring earlier, including looking at whether this is linked to a reduction in the lifetime allowance, to £1m, from 1 April 2016''

    Poor NHSE, they still don't know the reasons for this exodus! With that level of IQ, no surprise that the sky is falling.

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  • NHSE seem to be T.A.P.S!

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  • They also should investigate how many people, like me, have left but not taken their pension yet. The numbers are much higher than they realise, and these are people who would have been paying to fund current pensioners.
    And then there are those who have gone abroad or changed careers, not to mention those who have gone part time to reduce their tax bill.

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  • it's a complete mystery why GPs are leaving as it's never been a better time to be a GP and we have exciting challenges ahead such as a move from 5 day to 7 day routine service. I so enjoy the rise in expenses and fall in income as it's so much joy trying to balance my finances. I especially enjoy the challenges that revalidation, CQC, local mandatory policies throw up. But most of all the increasing risk makes being a GP so much fun - why anyone would leave is a mystery?

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  • This country is lost.... and the worst is yet to come!

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  • I took advice and invested to the maximum in Added Years and AVCs.I should have spent it on fast cars and loose women.The LTA limits were a no-brainer: carry on working and let the Goverment waste my hard-earned on some fantastically corrupt country, or retire.
    My biggest worry is youqps who are carrying on working but have pulled out of the scheme: my (unfunded) pension needs your contributions!

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