GPs could be ‘overlooked’ in McCloud measures to remedy an NHS pension scheme discrimination, accountants have warned.
In March, the Department of Health launched a consultation on a draft statutory instrument which will make changes to NHS Pension Schemes Regulations, to facilitate the retrospective part of the McCloud remedy.
The Government committed age discrimination when reforming the NHS pension scheme in 2015, when most public service pension schemes were reformed.
The reforms did not apply to scheme members who were within 10 years of their normal pension age on the 31 March 2012, instead they remained in their legacy schemes with ‘transitional protection’.
After legal challenges were brought by doctors, judges, firefighters and others, the Court of Appeal found this amounted to ‘unlawful discrimination on grounds of age,’ as the protection was offered only to older members of the scheme.
The Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants (AISMA) is calling for amendments to make specific provision for GPs, alongside non-GP providers and dental practitioners, in its response to the consultation.
AISMA raised concerns about the provision of Remediable Service Statements, which all active and deferred members of the pension scheme are due to receive by 1 April 2025.
For GPs, the provision of Remediable Service Statements will depend on the NHS Business Authority (NHSBA) delivering Annual Allowance Pension Savings Statements and Total Reward Statements.
However, there are issues relating to the updating of records the NHSBA needs to provide these statements, due to long-running problems in the processing of GP pension returns at Primary Care Support England (PCSE), the association said.
AISMA Chairman Deborah Wood said: ‘A significant proportion of the GPs AISMA accountants represent do not receive automatic Annual Allowance Pension Savings Statements when they should, nor can they access Total Reward Statements.
‘As part of the McCloud remedy, a distinct, separate exercise is needed to bring GPs’ records up to date and to ensure accurate information is held by NHSBA.’
She said that that while the NHSBA might issue the various statements on time to meet the Remediable Service Statements deadlines, for GPs the statements may well be ‘incorrect or unreliable’ because of the delays and errors already in the system.
She added: ‘Some medical professionals might receive their Remediable Service Statements much earlier than others in the period up to March 2025, but GPs may find themselves left behind, if the errors and arrears are not dealt with well before the deadline.’
The consultation about the second and retrospective part of the McCloud remedy, which closed on 6 June, will remove the effect of the transitional protections.
For NHS Pension Scheme members impacted by the discrimination, the retrospective remedy primarily:
- returns members who moved to the 2015 scheme back into the legacy scheme for their pensionable service (‘remediable service’) effected by the discrimination during the remedy period, from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2022, which in this consultation is referred to as ‘rollback’
- offers a choice of whether to receive, legacy scheme benefits or 2015 scheme benefits for their remediable service benefits, both of which are payable from the legacy scheme
Last year, the BMA was granted a judicial review into the Government’s ‘unlawful’ handling of NHS pensions, but this was dismissed in March after a four-day hearing.
The judge, Mr Justice Choudhury, ruled the government’s decision was not unlawful and he dismissed the applications on all grounds.