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BMA issues tough defence of GP pensions

By Gareth Iacobucci

The BMA has launched a robust defence of GPs' pensions, insisting they are sustainable and represent value for money for the public.

In its submission to the independent commission into public sector pensions, published today, the BMA says the NHS scheme has been the subject of a series of 'misconceptions', which it attempts to clarify.

It points out that NHS pensions are financed by employees and employers rather than taxpayers, and have delivered a surplus to the Treasury in recent years.

The BMA also draws attention to the fact that the scheme for NHS staff in England and Wales has already been subject to a major review in the past few years, and said it should not be re-examined so soon after the previous review.

Changes brought in 2008 saw the normal pension age for new staff increase from 60 to 65, and employers' contributions capped, with contributions from doctors increasing by up to 2.5%, meaning GPs now pay employer contributions of 14%.

It said this combination meant that 'most GPs pay 21.5% - 22.5% of they pay in contributions to the scheme.'

The BMA insisted that contribution rates paid by NHS staff 'are not out of line with those paid by members in the private sector', and warned that 'increases in ciontributions could lead to signficant numbers of doctors leaving the scheme'.

It said GPs will 'shoulder much of the burden' of the Government's future plans for the NHS, and therefore, warned it is vital that NHS pensions are 'not changed detrimentally to the extent that it affects the recruitment and retenion of high quality doctors'.

Dr Andrew Dearden, Chair of the BMA's Pensions Committee, said: ‘Pensions for NHS staff are by no means a drain on the taxpayer – they represent a fair deal for staff and value for money for the public. We understand the need to keep the NHS scheme fair and sustainable in the long term, which is why we accepted the major changes recommended by the review in 2008.

‘NHS pensions play a vital part in recruiting and retaining a high quality workforce in future, and we hope they will continue to do so in future.'

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said last month that the Government risked a 'crisis in the NHS' if they decided to meddle with the NHS pensions scheme.

Dr Andrew Dearden In Depth

Click here to read the full BMA submission and add your comments