Exclusive: GPs have been temporarily barred from transferring out of the NHS pension scheme and will be unable to do so for the foreseeable future, due to an IT upgrade announced just as the BMA launched a publicity campaign warning how much the Government’s reforms will cost those in the scheme.
The NHS Business Services Authority, the body that manages the NHS pensions scheme, said applications from GPs to quit the NHS Pensions Scheme had been placed on hold, and it was ‘not able’ to provide Cash Equivalent Transfer Values (CETVs) until ‘system functionality is available’.
The IT overhaul, announced on 12 January – six days before the BMA formally rejected the Government’s pensions offer – is needed to allow systems to process changes to the Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV) rates brought in by the Government last October.
But a spokesperson admitted the NHS BSA was ‘unable to confirm’ when the work will be completed: ‘We do not know what the average length of delay will be. Scheme members can still make applications to make a transfer and NHS Pensions will work through these when system functionality is available.’
The news comes at a time of heightened tension among grassroots GPs about pensions, as the BMA draws up options for industrial action ahead of its emergency council meeting later this month. Dr Mark Selman, a GP in Exeter, warned GPs would be suspicious about the timing.
‘I think there is all sorts of slippery stuff going on with pensions at the moment,’ he said.
NHS Pensions said system updates began in December ahead of its January announcement after the new factors were signed off by the Government Actuary’s Department.
Any GP whose application to quit the NHS pensions scheme was received within three months of 26 October will receive the better CETV rate, NHS Pensions said.