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GP leaders call for ‘concrete reassurance’ over pension cost rise

Scottish GP leaders are seeking ‘concrete reassurance’ from the Government that practices will not have to foot the bill for a proposed increase in employer pension contributions.

The Scottish Public Pension Agency is currently consulting on plans to raise the employer contribution by 6% from 1 April 2019.

In a letter sent in December outlining the details of the consultation, the Agency said the latest provisional pension scheme valuation suggest the employer contribution rate will need to rise from its current rate of 14.9% to 20.9% in April this year.

GP partners in England have also raised concerns about similar proposed changes which have been estimated would cost £7,000 more per doctor each year for employer contributions to the NHS pension scheme.

Scotland BMA GP committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said the proposals had caused a great deal of anxiety among GPs.

He wrote in a blog that it was clear that this substantial increase in costs could be ‘hugely damaging’ for GP practices across Scotland and run counter to contract changes which had been put in place to improve sustainability.

He has sought to reassure GPs that they are working to ensure there is no impact on GP income from any changes.

‘I have been speaking directly with Scottish Government primary care officials to be absolutely clear that this is unacceptable, and GPs being forced to meet these extra costs could have an extremely damaging effect on recruitment and retention – and the sustainability of practices,’ he said.

‘I have personally written to the Cabinet Secretary outlining our concern that the consultation contains no commentary on how the costs would be met and that this has caused considerable distress for our GP members.

‘I also made the Cabinet Secretary aware that many GPs have contacted us concerned that these changes would destabilise their practice, and that others have indicated they were considering leaving the profession.’

The BMA has submitted a formal response to the consultation which closes this month.

But Dr Buist added that discussions with Scottish Government officials had shown ‘an expectation’ that the additional costs would be met by the Treasury.

He added: ‘While this is positive, it is at this stage still far from providing the concrete reassurance we need.’

‘That’s why we will continue to vigorously argue that it is essential the overall additional Treasury funding – providing it is confirmed – covers these additional costs to practices in full and on an ongoing basis.’

Dr Iain Kennedy, medical secretary at Highland LMC said: ‘We have had a lot of concerned GPs contacting us to say they are very worried about the future viability of their practices, and many are thinking they may retire early.

‘There is lots of anger and concerns that this undermines promises made by government in Scotland’s newly negotiated GP contract.’

Dr Drummond Begg, chair of Lothian LMC, said as the proposals stand it would hit GPs hard at a time when retention of GPs is of critical importance.

‘I am very concerned about the effect it will have on retaining some excellent highly skilled doctors.’

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