How can sessional GPs safeguard their pensions?
Dr Krishan Aggarwal outlines the steps sessional GPs need to take to safeguard their pensions, after Capita ran into difficulties processing contributions
Since Capita has taken over running primary care back-office support from local area teams, a number of problems with the processing of GPs’ pension contributions have emerged.
This is partly due to the loss of local knowledge from experience and partly because Capita is now trying to introduce a more uniform process, which has highlighted how the approach previously varied across different teams.
In the immediate term, these problems principally affect sessional GPs whose pension contributions may have been misplaced.
Here I will briefly outline some key steps GPs need to take to make sure their pension contributions are accurate and up to date.
1. I am a locum GP and my cheques have not been cashed, what do I do?
Locum GPs should check if their cheques have cleared; those who believe their payments have not been allocated should contact the BMA for assistance (email@example.com), or, if not a BMA member, they can contact Capita directly.
The ten-week rule has been waived for monies that may have been lost and individuals have an opportunity to resend missing pension contributions.
In addition, GPs should consider the following advice to make sure they submit their payments in line with Capita’s requirements from now on.
2. How should I send future pension contributions?
If you currently pay your pension contributions by cheque we would recommend you switch to BACS, as Capita have stated this means they are able to allocate monies to individuals’ pensions records more readily.
Either way, you need to somehow make your payment identifiable to yourself. I would recommend using the BACS payment reference that includes your NHS pensions SD number. It is detailed in the guidance notes on the Locum A form.
3. What about pension forms?
You need to submit Locum A and B forms as usual. The forms were updated in May to enable GPs to include the BACS reference number. However, contrary to the guidance notes from NHS Pensions, Capita has confirmed it will not refuse any forms that do not include this – although including the reference can only help.
Please be aware that the email address to send your forms has changed. The new email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no longer any requirement to send forms by paper. However, if you wish to Capita are currently continuing to accept them.
4. How do I know forms and payments have been received?
Staggeringly, neither Capita nor NHS Pensions issues GPs with a receipt for the amount allocated to their pensions.
Capita has said GPs should receive automated emails after submitting Locum A and B forms each month: when the case is opened and once the process is completed.
However, the evidence is that this is clearly not happening, which I am continuing to pursue.
5. Will I lose money that has not yet been allocated to my pension?
NHS England and Capita have promised to ring-fence monies until they can be allocated to individuals – we have been advised there is no risk that this money will be lost.
NHS England and Capita have also agreed to look at providing annual statements for the year ending 31 March 2016 in the first instance so GPs can check if any monies are missing from their pension record.
6. I am a sessional GP. Do I need to complete a Type 2 self-assessment form?
It has been a legal requirement for Type 2 practitioners to complete the self-assessment form since the year 2009/2010, in order to ensure GPs’ pension contributions reflect their total income received from different roles within each financial year.
However, many sessional GPs do not know if they are a Type 2 practitioner or not. Essentially, a Type 2 practitioner is either: i) a salaried GP; ii) a self-employed GP working in a practice greater than six months; or iii) a GP who works solely for out-of-hours services.
There is still ambiguity over this definition, for example whether all individuals doing out-of-hours work need to complete the form, which I am seeking to clarify.
Prior to Capita, different area teams viewed the requirement differently. Some were far more proactive than others. As a result, many GPs were not aware of the form and whether they are required to complete one.
Due to my concerns, I have negotiated an amnesty with NHS Pensions, NHS England and Capita, to allow time to make sure doctors who are unaware this applies to them have an opportunity to complete the forms.
For the time being you do not need to do anything other than to check whether this likely applied to you at any time since 2009/10.
I will update BMA members via the Sessional GPC newsletter when I have more information. Information will also be posted on the BMA website.
Dr Krishan Aggarwal is a GP in London and deputy chair of the GPC’s sessional GPs subcommittee