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GP pensions in firing line for Government cuts

By Ian Quinn

GPs' pensions today fell firmly under the crosshairs of potential Government cutbacks, as the BMA prepared the ground for a major battle over a planned shake up of NHS benefits.

Lord Hutton's interim report on public pension schemes was published yesterday after he was asked to investigate the affordability of schemes by the Government.

There have been strong indications from chancellor George Osborne that public sector pensions are to face a huge and controversial reform process, after he claimed the projected rise in the cost to taxpayers of public sector pensions was ‘unsustainable'.

In response to the report, Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA pensions committee, said: ‘The BMA rejects the idea that final salary schemes are unfair.

‘The NHS pension is an example of a successful and sustainable final salary scheme, agreed in partnership between staff and employers. Along with other NHS staff, the vast majority of doctors pay into the NHS scheme for their whole working lives. Doctors are highly skilled professionals and it is essential that the reward package - which includes pensions – continues to support recruitment and retention.

‘The report also questions the current method by which public sector pension schemes are valued. We reject the suggestion that this should change from the current method which is the same as that used to measure other forms of government spending. It is inappropriate to value unfunded public sector schemes in the same way as funded schemes.'

However, Dr Dearden praised elements of the report.

He said: 'We welcome Lord Hutton's rejection of the myth of "gold-plated" public pension schemes. As his report acknowledges, the NHS scheme has already been subject to a major overhaul, adopting many of the changes he recommends, such as tiered contributions and a higher retirement age.'

Precarious: GP pensions could take a hit under Government cutbacks Precarious: GP pensions could take a hit under Government cutbacks

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