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GPs must make their voice heard on pensions

Write to your MP, urges Dr David Bailey, to ensure our hard work on June 21 doesn’t go unnoticed

It has been four months since the day of action, but most of the debate on NHS pensions hasn’t moved on from the events of June 21. On the Pulse forums, GPs continue to express a range of conflicting views about whether we were justified in taking industrial action at all, whether we went too far or not far enough and whether the ‘urgent and necessary care only’ model was the right one.

While I believe that the action was a qualified success – insofar as it allowed thousands of GPs to demonstrate their anger without letting down their patients – we shouldn’t forget that it won’t be the only way for us to make our case. 

For the best part of a year, we tried hard, but ultimately unsuccessfully, to engage the Government in meaningful negotiations and we continue to take part in discussions – the BMA is represented on the new joint review group looking at the impact of working longer, for example.

Next week, MPs will for the first time debate the Public Service Pensions Bill. Essentially, the Government wants to bring all public sector pensions together under a common legal framework, but it’s a far-reaching piece of legislation that would grant the Treasury sweeping new powers, potentially allowing it to subject your pension to yet more ‘reform’ in future.

We have just published an in-depth analysis of public sector pension reform, which looks in forensic detail at the unfair variations it would entrench. 

It shows how there are three forms of unfairness in the Government’s approach:

  • Lack of fairness in the overall approach to public sector pension reform, such as the fact that the Government seems to have conveniently forgotten that it is already generating £250 billion worth of savings by 2060 by changing the indexation method from RPI to CPI.
  • Lack of fairness across public sector schemes, with many NHS staff paying a higher proportion of their salaries toward pension benefits than workers elsewhere in the public sector (including MPs). This hits doctors particularly hard, with the highest earners paying almost twice as much as civil servants on similar salaries.
  • Lack of fairness within the NHS pension scheme, including the fact that the Government has ignored the huge changes that were agreed in 2008 to NHS pensions, and that higher-paid NHS staff will get much less from the scheme per pound invested than lower-paid workers because of the steep tiering of contributions.

We must now make those disparities clear to MPs, and to urge them to make changes to the Bill.

If you’re a BMA member and haven’t already used our new lobbying tool to contact your MP, please do so.  He or she needs to know that – whether or not we’re taking industrial action – GPs aren’t happy with what the Government is doing to our pensions.

Dr David Bailey is deputy chair of the BMA Pensions Committee and a GP in Gwent

Readers' comments (2)

  • I agree with David Bailey above and have contacted my MP; I urge others to do the same. But I would like to highlight another area of unfairness - blatant age discrimination in the new pension arrangements.

    I have recently obtained a copy of the government’s equality assessment of the new NHS pension arrangements. One section caught my eye, concerning the approximate 10 years transition protection which older members will receive (so that anyone over 50 will have no change in their current pension arrangements). I quote from this document:“The policy of protecting older members is directly age discriminatory but may be objectively justified on the grounds that those nearing retirement are least able to change their retirement plans to accommodate changes in pension provision. There is further justification in that advantages gained by this older group are offset by less generous aspects of the 1995 section package…”

    So the UK government is admitting that not extending this transition protection to younger members is against the Equality Act 2010, but using an “objective justification” which I don’t believe holds water. Older members will have already built up more service in the old pension scheme by 2015 than younger members and so are in reality financially better prepared for retirement, not worse. Also, how much more can a 46 year old (with no protection) do than a 50 year old (with full protection) to prepare for retirement, especially as the much higher contributions mean that there is no spare cash to plough into a private pension? You also need to start saving much earlier in life than 46. In terms of the second justification given, younger members of the 1995 section are equally at a disadvantage.

    I understand from BMA legal advisors that it is unlikely that any challenge would be successful. However, what I say is that this means that there is a chance, albeit slim, of getting the same terms – 10 years transition protection – for younger members, so that all members can stay in the current scheme for another decade.

    My message to the BMA – stand up for younger members – take the UK Government to court over this blatant age discrimination!

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  • What did the "strike" achieve?

    It gave a papers a field day at our expense.

    It encouraged our patients to regard us as more money grabbing than they hithertoo believed.

    It inconvenienced some of our punters, none of whom we have a grievance against.

    It did not sway the Government at all.

    So....we lost. We continue to lose, over pay, expenses, CQC, QOF and the BMA does what? Not a lot that I can see. The grassroots are pleading for a call for a united disengagement from Commissioning but that message doesn't seem to reach Tavistock Square. Individual GPs will take lonely unnoticed steps, dissengagement, retirement, emmigration, all of which damages our professions future. Wales seems to be showing some guts of late, will England follow suit?

    For the record I did write to my MP at the time of the dispute, he essentially laughed at me.

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