Government proposals to increase the normal minimum pension age from 55 to 57 years will further demoralise overworked and burnt out doctors, the BMA has warned.
In a consultation response to the plans, BMA pensions committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma points out that the changes will not apply to members of the armed forces, police and fire services, and this special dispensation should be extended to the NHS.
Under the proposals, the Government said it was reconfirming its intention to legislate to increase the normal minimum pension age (NPMA) to age 57 on 6 April 2028.
The move ‘reflects increases in longevity and changing expectations of how long we will remain in work and in retirement’, it said.
But in his response, Dr Sharma said there was no rationale for increasing the minimum age from 55 to 57 years in the NHS Pension Scheme.
He added that the complex nature of pensions taxation means that doctors do not benefit from income tax relief on pensions and leave many needing to opt out of the scheme and retire before the age of 57.
‘There is therefore no rationale for this change either on the basis of improving the affordability of the scheme or to ensure that members save for later life, Dr Sharma wrote.
‘At a time where pressures on the NHS have never been greater, with doctors reporting high levels of fatigue and burnout, increasing the NMPA will only serve to demotivate and worsen the already low levels of morale amongst the medical workforce.
‘If the Government is intent on increasing the NMPA, we would strongly argue that the special dispensation given to members of the armed forces, police and fire services be extended to the NHS,’ he said.
The BMA consultation response to the proposals first set out in February pointed out that working within the NHS is extremely physically and mentally challenging, and the demands on NHS staff are comparable to many of those in protected schemes.
The BMA added: ‘Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted the demands on the NHS with staff not only risking their own lives, but those of their family whilst caring for patients. In addition, they have been expected to work exceptionally long hours, including significant amounts of time during unsocial periods whilst working under intense pressure, alongside the additional demands of working with personal protective equipment.
‘We hope that you will note our evidence on this and other points and would welcome the opportunity to work with you in addressing alternative solutions,’ he said.
Last year, the Government froze the lifetime allowance for GP pensions until at least 2025/26, in a move which the BMA had warned could lead to a ‘catastrophic exacerbation’ of NHS workforce shortages.
The Government is currently analysing the feedback to the consultation, which ran from February to late April.