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Independents' Day

​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)

  • Why are GPs retiring early? Could it be (to coin a military expression) that General Practice has been well and truly 'FUBAR'd'. Look it up or if you can't it means F----d Up Beyond All Recognition! Need I say more and no need to be anonymous!

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  • Perhaps TFBUNDY* may be more accurate. Its from Samuel Shem's 'House of God' (an excellent read from the 70's and shows that, in some respects, things haven't changed all that much).
    * Totally F---ed But Unfortunately Not Dead Yet.
    Sadly it seems that it won't be long before General Practice JPFROGs (Just Plain F---ing Runs Out Of Gas).

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  • I would love to chair a committee meeting where NHS England look into the reasons why so many GP's are retiring - We could have a lunch break and invite a touring Punch & Judy Show to come in and provide some entertainment; "Oooooh Naughty Mr Punch (Jeremy Hunt) Whack Whack "all you idle GP's whinging about 7 day working" but LISTEN to JUDY with 7 Day working GP's will find more sick people who'll have to go into hospital - It's MICRO MANAGEMENT FROM THE TOP!! Why not use the Andrew Lansley idea of putting the professionals (doctors) in charge - "OOOOOHHhhhh That's the Way to Do it - Erm oh dear it's too late!!!!"

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  • they know the reasons why GPs are leaving but they simply don't care as they don't have the money to increase staffing levels. it wouldn't surprise me if they start to look at measures to delay GPs retiring as a solution to staffing problems.

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  • apologies to hijack this but is it worth remaining in the nhs pension scheme??

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  • I cant see why peter swinyard wants our names
    he says he earns nothing and came back from some retirement
    Some ask why does a practice budget on over £1m not pay him
    he has not replied

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  • I personally handed in my AW8 at the end of December with a retirement date of 2 April, 13 weeks notice. I was told to expect my lump sum on my retirement date and made relevant financial planning arrangements. As very near the date no pension calculations letter arrived, I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone to a call centre in Fleetwood who told me that they had 30 days from my retirement date to pay me.

    Come the 3oth day still no letter and no money in the bank. An intervention from my local PCSS by email eventually ensured payment of my lump sum by 5 May, followed a few days later by the pension letter.

    The pension calculations appear wildly out with the monthly payments just over half of what I expected and I have sent a request for more information on the workings of the calculations which is yet outstanding.

    A letter of complaint sent by special delivered however was met with a written response within 3 days just stating that the lump sum had been paid in the meantime and hoping I did not want to take this any further.

    A phone call to BMA pensions department met with a resigned response that Fleetwood had been experiencing back logs since June 2015.

    All in all a pretty poor show. Do not hold your breath and make sure that when you do get paid you check the calculations carefully or get your accountant to do it for you.

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  • I have now had a letter that because of the backlog my benefits were authorised after the 5 April deadline and according to HMRC the LTA of £1,000,000 applies, not £ 1,250,000 as before. This is costing me about £30,000 in LTA charge.

    This is a scandal. I would be interested to hear from other affected parties.

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  • I have a house purchase pending on my lump sum of £375k being paid on time. The money is theoretically due on the day after I retire, so my question is how do I claim interest on this not insignificant amount? (just like I have to pay if my tax is late!!)

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  • I retired on 31.3.16, but received no money until 3.6.16, although I chased the Agency from May 2016 .
    Then I received a lower estimate as my claim was signed off after 6.4.16 ( hence within the Life time allowance of £1 million as opposed to the £1.25 million) although I submitted my AW8 in August 2015
    I have already contacted the Agency concerning:
    1. the reduced wrong estimate re LTA allowance
    2. the unpaid interest on late payment( which I had to "remind " them about)
    3. Made a formal complaint to the complaints department( who have missed their own statuary time to reply to my complaint)
    4. asked my accountant to also chase the Agency( It seems when he contacted HMRC their reply was " oh no, not another one !")

    In all cases I have yet to receive a reply... I am now approaching the Pension Ombudsman for what it is worth.

    It seems that the Pension Agency has been failing to cope since 2014, so I am in a very long queue to have my problems resolved.

    So the take home message is, have at least 3-4 months housekeeping money ready, assume the original estimate will be wrong, check the tax coding , complain to everyone you can , and hope the problem is resolved within 12 months... well at least that is my plan

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  • an update for all those wondering why the final calculations are taking so long. On top of the currently known problems( see above) it seems that the annual certificates might take 11 months to be issued, causing the final calculation to deferred for up to 15 months after a retirement date

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