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GPs paid thousands for pensions blunders placed under NHS gagging clause


Personal injury


Exclusive NHS England has paid out thousands of pounds in compensation to GPs for mishandling their pensions but has banned them from talking about it.

At least 35 GPs have each been given an average of £1,000 after Primary Care Support England – NHS England’s body for pensions administration, run by private firm Capita – failed in its management of their pension information.

But the compensation offer was made on the basis the GPs complied with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which prevents them from talking about the payment.

The overall sum paid to the 35 GPs subject to a gagging clause – £34,868.02 – was revealed by NHS England in its response to a freedom of information (FOI) request in January made by grassroots campaign group GP Survival.

GP Survival campaign lead Dr Nick Grundy said the average £1,000 payment was ‘not enough on its own’ for the problems caused ‘but it’s a good start’.

He said he believed the NDA was an attempt to cover up the ‘hassle’ GPs face in accessing ‘simple’ information about their pension.

GP Survival challenged NHS England over its inclusion of the NDA and GPs have since been made compensation offers without the clause.

Dr Grundy said he believes over 100 GPs could be going through the compensation claims process. This may be due to GPs having incurred financial losses as a result of incorrect pension records.

There are also wider problems, such as the potential for GPs to be issued a tax charge if their pension records indicate they have breached their annual tax-free allowance, said Dr Grundy.

But the more common reason for seeking compensation is the hours GPs have sacrificed to help rectify the problems – making many more GPs eligible to make a claim, said Dr Grundy.

He said: ‘The real reason PCSE’s mishandling of information is a problem is it’s an enormous admin burden and hassle and stress for enormous numbers of GPs – not just the very small number who’ve actually got compensation.’

Dr Grundy added: ‘The reason NHS England is putting non-disclosure agreements on these things is they don’t want people to know the hassle that they’re [GPs] having to go through to get something as simple as their pension records updated.’

NHS England said in its FOI response to GP Survival that ‘the non-disclosure clause was a condition of the Memorandum of Understanding for the GP pensions compensation process which was agreed in April 2019′.

It added: ‘This was agreed by senior management after considering legal advice and how claims around pensions will be dealt with.’

North London GP Dr Toni Hazell was offered the £1,000 compensation fee last month, which was made ‘on an ex gratia basis in connection with delay in processing of your certificates,’ according to a letter NHS England sent to her.

However, Dr Hazell had applied for a higher amount after calculating she had spent over 20 hours trying to resolve pension information on behalf of PCSE – which later revealed she had overpaid £4,500 into her pension pot.

The higher compensation fee was refused on the basis that ‘non-financial injustice awards will not be calculated based on the number of hours spent by an applicant multiplied by an hourly rate of pay’, according to an NHS England letter.

Dr Hazell said she plans to split the compensation with GP Survival so the group can help to fight other cases.

She applied for the money after spending hours replying to ‘complex’ emails and scanning payslips into her computer to send to PCSE.

This was after she tried to access her pensions information online around five years ago and found there was missing information on her rewards statement.

Dr Hazell, who has worked in the NHS since 2000, said: ‘I was told unless I could provide all my payslips from before 2015/16 they couldn’t guarantee my pension had been correctly recorded.’

She added: ‘It is incredibly stressful knowing the basis of your retirement fund is not being properly looked after.’

Locum GP Dr Jeremy Heath, based in Cornwall, was offered £1,000 compensation last year after he spent three years chasing ‘thousands of pounds’ of pensions contributions that were unaccounted for.

He said: ‘They wouldn’t answer my phone calls, they weren’t responding to emails or the online [system] so I think the compensation is for the amount of time I put in chasing an error on their part.’

Dr Heath said he’d been told the pension money had now been recorded, but said the compensation fee ‘doesn’t cover the amount of time I’ve put in’.

He was initially asked to agree to the NDA, but objected to it and the clause was removed.

He said: ‘They are offering a poor service and then they try to pay me off to keep quiet – that’s what that was.’

NHS England was approached for comment.

GPs have faced years of problems around discrepancies in information about their pension pots.

In 2018 consultancy firm PwC was appointed to help review all GP pension data, which NHS England said would have a ‘significant’ impact on a ‘large proportion of the GP community’.

But at the start of last year it was revealed only one in four GP pension records for 2017/18 were up to date.

READERS' COMMENTS [14]

David Church 10 March, 2021 11:47 am

I still cannot access my TRS statement on the website, and have been trying for oveer 5 years : I have correspondence going back many years about inaccuracies in my contribution records, and even some cheques which were never cashed for pension contributions. Can I claim compensation too?
And I had a bit bill one year for breach of annual allowance because my added years payments were mishandled : and essentially I was mis-sold the added years contract and then contributions were wrongly allocated to a tax year by delaying recording of it. Can I claim fo rall that hassle too?
Or will it just be taken off my pension pot/

Jeremy Poland 10 March, 2021 12:13 pm

I have just retired. I spent hours sorting out paperwork issues re my pension. I had raised numerous queries since becoming self employed before I retired, and I thought, after numerous phone calls, that they had been resolved. No chance. When I submitted my AW8 form, a senior manager was allocated to my file. He was brilliant, spent 5 hours sorting out my file and dealt with all my issues and queries. Why cant problems br sorted like that when they arise? Also, if I have overpaid, nothing happens, if they think I have underpaid, money has to be provided immediately. I was asked to pay tjem £1, it turned out they owed me money. If there is something wrong on a form, sometimes years later, you have to redo it, it cant be amended, and they wont send it to you, so if you havent kept a copy you are stuffed. Capita are completely incompetent

Jeremy Poland 10 March, 2021 12:18 pm

…while I am pn the issue of pensions, it is worth noting that a gp partner pays so much for their pension (as it includes the employers contribution and the higher rate employees contribution) that it is simply not worth joining if you are a younger partner. A couple of decades of investment growth on your 26% contribtion gives you a much higher pension. Why has the BMA, or Pulse never looked into this?

Nicholas Grundy 10 March, 2021 12:32 pm

In answer to whether you should be claiming compensation, David, my advice would be that yes you should. It’s exactly the incompetence you describe from PCSE and NHSE, and the resulting burden of admin work on the individual doctor, which has led to the compensation claims this campaign has uncovered.

I will be working up a template letter and details of who to contact and what information to include in due course – please keep an eye on the GP Survival website/Facebook page, and Pulse.

Just My Opinion 10 March, 2021 1:20 pm

“A couple of decades of investment growth on your 26% contribtion gives you a much higher pension.”

No Jeremy, it doesn’t.

Nick Mann 10 March, 2021 1:42 pm

I chased PCSE for perhaps 2yrs to get my TRS corrected (they lost 5yrs worth of my type2 forms). BMA surprisingly unhelpful. No-one told me compensation was possible. My formal complaint to PCSE was ignored. I’ll check out GP Survival. Good on you.

Lucy Marchand 10 March, 2021 2:20 pm

Their site is USELESS! I have NEVER been able to access my TRS not once! The site refuses to recognise me because I work in my unmarried name and my national insurance details are in my married name so I have to go through the rigmaroll of ringing them up every time I want to access anything even something as simple as that! And then have to wait 3 months to see if it will ever appear!

Jeremy Poland 10 March, 2021 5:51 pm

Earnings £100,000. Contribution £26,000, pension £1,400 (1995 scheme).share investment growth average , over decades, 7%. Investment doubles every 10 years. 20 years gives 400% growth ie £100,000. This gives an indexed linked pension of over £3,000 which is over double the nhs pension. If you have 30 years plus of growth, the difference is way more.

Gianna Chadwick 11 March, 2021 12:31 am

Lucy Marchand – yes, I have exactly the same issue. I had to phone up and the lady said 80% of her calls were from female GP’s who can’t access their TRS online. Apparently it will be printed and sent to me. But 5 weeks later and one chaser call, I’m still waiting. I have spent hours if not days trying to get my Locum and Salaried pension contributions recorded correctly. My accountant has advised me to keep ALL my payslips etc forever, as at some point I will probably need them to prove my contributions all over again.

Just My Opinion 11 March, 2021 6:48 am

These calculations aren’t accurate, and I would strongly advise anyone considering leaving the NHS pension and thinking they can do better via other investments to seek professional financial advice from a pensions expert first.

Susan Martin 11 March, 2021 12:43 pm

tip of the iceberg. I spent 18 months getting mine sorted out which was eventually only finalised by resending paperwork several times, sending some by registered delivery (we haven’t received it, yes you have on suchandsuch a date, oh yes) invoking a complaint and finally involving the pensions ombudsman. They reduced me to tears at one point. There is no compensation for that!

Richard Greenway 12 March, 2021 6:46 pm

Never been able to been able to get my pension statement on Total Rewards despite hours getting passwords redone/ post office verification and so on.
Then email asking for a statement – NO x2 (still haven’t got all your information- which has all been submitted on time.
So frustrating.

Joanne Bramall 13 March, 2021 2:48 pm

Will the template letter be made available to all? I would like to contact Nick Grundy as I’ve already been through the Ombudsman process and could offer some experience perhaps?

Deborah White 18 March, 2021 10:44 am

Just catching up with this. Thanks for all your work, Nick Grundy, I look forward to template letters re compensation. I have asked for this informally, but got nowhere. I am currently in correspondence with NHS England over my 2018 SAR (still!), and have complained to PCSE, which doesn’t respond within its own deadline.

It is hard to imagine any GP has not been affected by this. The scale and the depth of the problems are mind boggling.