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Pension flexibility proposals not enough to sustain GP services, warns Simon Stevens

Government proposals to make pensions more flexible are not enough to ensure the sustainability of GP services, NHS England's chief executive has warned. 

In a keynote speech addressed to delegates at the NHS Expo in Manchester, Mr Stevens said 'significant further action' is needed if GP and clinicians are to continue to provide sustainable services to patients. 

The Government announced in July proposals that would offer high earning GPs, alongside consultants and other senior clinicians, the option to build up their pension more slowly 'by making steadier contributions towards their pension, without facing regular significant tax charges'.

The consultation suggested the introduction of the 50:50 section, which would let doctors halve their pension contributions and get half the rate of pension growth in return. 

But new proposals announced in August suggested to scrap the 50:50 option and give NHS doctors the flexibility to choose how much of their salary they wish to be pensionable. This included the possibility for employers to 'recycle' their contributions into the overall salary. 

Mr Stevens said we need 'significant further action' as flexibility alone will not guarantee the sustainability of healthcare services. 

He said: 'We have to be honest about the fact that in some respect the patient and the public experience is not what we would want. Waits for GP appointments have been getting longer, partly of course due to the great pressures on GP practice themselves, the fact that GP numbers have not kept up with the rising patient need.

'Yes we’re succeeding in recruiting the highest number ever of young doctors into general practice training but we haven’t been able to hold onto the more experienced GPs who will be retiring early partly because of the pension crisis brought about by the tax treatment of pensions.

‘Therefore it’s very welcomed that we are seeing flexibility now being consulted on by the Government. We’re going to see a significant further action on the way the annual allowance works to ensure hospital clinicians and primary care clinicians are able to continue to sustain the range of services that patients clearly want.'

In the same speech, the NHS announced it is looking at offering patients access to high-dose statins through community pharmacies without the need for a GP prescription.


Readers' comments (6)

  • what is the incentive to continue working when you hit the limit at age 55 years? none at the moment. Why not allow to freeze contributions but still retain all the in work pension benefits and add an extra tax free allowance for every extra year worked in the NHS post 55 years. simples

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  • Starting to look abroad especially with the pound in free fall and there is very little capacity to better your take home earnings with tax rules like that. One ends up poorer working more. Only in Britain. The only problem is selling the house with the pound in free fall.

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  • "significant further action" comes too f******g late.

    Done the maths and 2 finger salute to you all in NHS E by 31/3/20

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  • NHSE cant do the maths, look at a workforce numbers.They will have less than 2 years now before the numbers will drop off a cliff.This is pathetic.

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  • I’m still not convinced of NHSE’s overall commitment to us. Deep down they would like to be rid of us in a scenario where we get the blame (like with the dentists)!
    Hanging on to us with minimal financial cost to them is a reasonable transitional place for them to be.
    Compared to other professionals we are still
    cheap and VERY institutionalised.

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  • Post-truth Practitioner is correct. Greedy doctors desert NHS and take large pensions. Politicians say "collapse of system not our fault". That's been the plan since at least 2004.

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