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Leaked NHS memo warns pensions errors may affect 'large proportion of GPs'

Exclusive NHS England has privately warned that a review of NHS pensions could have a 'significant' impact on a 'large proportion of the GP community', in a confidential briefing seen by Pulse.

In the letter to primary care leads, NHS England said consultancy firm PwC has been appointed to help with a review of all GP pensions data - which was announced last month - and ensure that the GP pensions website is updated with the most recent financial figures.

This comes after NHS England identified 'significant issues' with GP pension records dating back more than a decade, relating to ‘discrepancies’ between the data held for pensionable earnings and those for pension contributions.

Meanwhile, nearly 400 GPs have submitted subject access requests to NHS England over the last year in an attempt to confirm their pensions records are accurate.

Grassroots campaign group GP Survival wrote to NHS England to highlight the requests, adding that they revealed that the pensions information held by Capita 'was incomplete and inaccurate in the majority of cases'.

The leaked NHS England memo said: 'This is a complex issue, with the potential to have a significant impact upon a large proportion of the GP community, as well as generating high levels of media interest and a significant financial impact – both in terms of the costs of performing rectification activity and the potential costs of any changes to GPs’ pensions where they are members of the NHS Pension Scheme.'

The briefing said that Capita and PWC have created a project team dedicated to resolving the issues.

It said: 'It is anticipated that the immediate focus of this team will be on ensuring that Pensions Online, the system used by GPs to view their pension information, is updated for the most recent financial year and previous years.'

In the GP Survival letter, sent last week, the group told NHS England to provide an ‘immediate timescale’ to members within which they will get updated pensions information, and commit to providing and paying for support from an accountant or pensions specialist to resolve issues where inaccuracies or omissions are identified.

The letter said 400 GPs submitted 'subject access requests to NHS England, dating back more than a year, in an attempt to confirm Capita have accurately recorded their pensions payments'.

It said that despite the group's work and the 'numerous individual doctors contacting NHS England to flag up errors in the data they eventually received', there had been no 'meaningful contact from NHS England seeking to resolve the errors in the pensions data'.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Independent experts have been appointed to work with NHS England, Capita and the NHS Business Services Authority to carry out a complete review of all the data and identify any discrepancies.

‘To date, 383 individual GPs have submitted subject access requests to NHS England to confirm records of their pension payments. Of these, six enquiries are ongoing.’

PWC said it could not comment on client work. 

Capita also declined to comment, but is supporting NHS England to address the issues.

GPs have had longstanding pensions issues. In January of this year, the BMA said it would support practices in taking legal action against Capita, saying the issues, relating to patient record transfers and processing payments, were ‘unacceptable’ and had gone from ‘bad to worse’.

In March the BMA said it had submitted freedom of information requeststo NHS England regarding alleged ‘unallocated’ GP pensions money and the following month the BMA said it was seeking legal advice over the annualisation of pensions, claiming the process was ‘unfair’.

Readers' comments (15)

  • National Hopeless Service

    The NHS pension scheme is just complex beyond the ridiculous and was destined to collapse under Crapita.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Please do not forget who give the contract(s) to Capita in the first place . It is undeniably unforgivable, no matter which political party your allegiance lie.

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  • I would not trust any figures on face value from
    Nhs pensions.I have not been in the scheme for over two years and have had a grow statement of £175k for 16/17-how can this be possible??

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  • Capita can't provide me with any figures for any of the last 22 years I've been paying in. Whenever I contact them they're miraculously in the middle of a "recalculation which will take a month". Somewhat predictably when I ring after a month they're doing a new "calculation". This isn't discrepancies this is an abject failure by their part.

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  • Not so sure PWC will do any better but they will certainly put in a big bill !

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  • Does anyone know- can you pull out of just one scheme e.g. the 2015 scheme but keep your benefits from the 1995 scheme? I’m considering a property portfolio instead...

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  • I think youcan defer membership which means you stop paying in and then draw the pension on retirement. You lose the tax relief and in service benefits are not as generous so it is recommended to take specialist advice according to BMA. See their pension website and the section on NHSBA “deferring my membership” on the pension page.

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  • AlanAlmond

    When you opt out of the NHS pension you maintain all benefits you’ve accrued up until the point you opt out. The pension is kind of put on ice until you retire. I did this in 2015 and will receive a 1995 section pension up to the value I had reached in 2015, at my retirement. It isnt great but it’s something. Mean time I’m making my own pension arrangements. I felt back then that the NHS pension was too complex (especially as a Locum) and it was being used by the government as a tool to shackle Drs to the NHS. I also reasoned you cannot trust the government with your pension. By a shear random act of luck for me I chose to opt out about a month before Capita took over administration of the NHS pension. At that time I needed to change performers list and Capita were utterly incompetent in doing this and it took a year. I can only asume their incompetence was on an equal scale with pensions, only it’s taken longer for it to come out...being the nature of pensions , they move slowly. Thank god I left when I did. I’ve come to realise, if you think something is wrong/up/incompetent within the NHS is probably is, what’s more it’s probably a whole lot worse than you first imagined.

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  • Dear All,
    And what of any consequential tax implications? What if you suddently discover you've exceeded your allowances, annual and lifetime? Who pays the extra tax due?
    Paul C

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  • And what action will be taken to ensure that all those who have already retired over the last decade or so did have their pensions calculated accurately??

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