Pension payment errors affecting around 11,000 practitioners, including GPs and dentists, have been uncovered by Scotland’s public pension body, which has apologised for the problems.
Scottish Public Pensions Agency first identified the errors – which include overpayments and underpayments by ‘practitioner’ members of the scheme – in the spring of last year.
The SPPA told Pulse it has carried out ‘extensive analysis’ with employers to establish 9,145 members have overpaid a total of £10.5m. It said a fifth are owed less than £100.
Meanwhile 1,993 members have underpaid by a total of £4.5m, with 30% needing to pay back less than £100.
This is a change from its original assessment, which first led it to believe there were £25m worth of inaccurate contributions, including 6,500 members who had overpaid by a total of £14m and 4,500 having paid too little (£10.7m).
The agency said it plans to return pension funds to GPs by the end of 2021 – while those that need to pay more will only be expected to do so if the error occurred in the past five years.
The incorrect payments go back as far as 2008 and relate to members who have held more than one employment contract at a given time.
The SPPA said ‘in some instances, the aggregated earnings have not been reported accurately by employers’ but the agency admitted it had not given enough support to employers to help.
A spokesperson for the SPPA said: ‘The SPPA provides employers with instructions to assist the completion of pension calculations.
‘It is clear we have not adequately supported our employer members in applying this complex procedure as well as we could have and we are working with our employer members to provide clearer guidance, improve our process and apply better quality assurance.’
The issue was reported to the pensions regulator in March 2021 with no further action taken, they said.
Earlier this year the SPPA contacted all GPs and employer members to prevent any further miscalculation, they added.
Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said: ‘We are very concerned about what appears to be a significant pension contribution issue affecting many GPs.
‘The SPPA alerted us to the situation and – while we are still awaiting the full figures on how many have been impacted by this – we have met with them to begin to understand what has gone wrong, to ensure that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible, and to minimise any disadvantage to GPs.’
It comes as in England, ongoing issues with the new pensions and payments portal, including GP pension information not being displayed, are continuing to be addressed.
This article was corrected at 9.08am on 5 August to reflect the higher figure of 1,993 members that have underpaid by a total of £4.5m.