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Leaked NHS memo warns pensions errors may affect ‘large proportion of GPs’

Exclusive NHS England has privately warned that a review of NHS pensions could have a ‘significant’ impact on a ‘large proportion of the GP community’, in a confidential briefing seen by Pulse.

In the letter to primary care leads, NHS England said consultancy firm PwC has been appointed to help with a review of all GP pensions data – which was announced last month – and ensure that the GP pensions website is updated with the most recent financial figures.

This comes after NHS England identified ‘significant issues’ with GP pension records dating back more than a decade, relating to ‘discrepancies’ between the data held for pensionable earnings and those for pension contributions.

Meanwhile, nearly 400 GPs have submitted subject access requests to NHS England over the last year in an attempt to confirm their pensions records are accurate.

Grassroots campaign group GP Survival wrote to NHS England to highlight the requests, adding that they revealed that the pensions information held by Capita ‘was incomplete and inaccurate in the majority of cases’.

The leaked NHS England memo said: ‘This is a complex issue, with the potential to have a significant impact upon a large proportion of the GP community, as well as generating high levels of media interest and a significant financial impact – both in terms of the costs of performing rectification activity and the potential costs of any changes to GPs’ pensions where they are members of the NHS Pension Scheme.’

The briefing said that Capita and PWC have created a project team dedicated to resolving the issues.

It said: ‘It is anticipated that the immediate focus of this team will be on ensuring that Pensions Online, the system used by GPs to view their pension information, is updated for the most recent financial year and previous years.’

In the GP Survival letter, sent last week, the group told NHS England to provide an ‘immediate timescale’ to members within which they will get updated pensions information, and commit to providing and paying for support from an accountant or pensions specialist to resolve issues where inaccuracies or omissions are identified.

The letter said 400 GPs submitted ‘subject access requests to NHS England, dating back more than a year, in an attempt to confirm Capita have accurately recorded their pensions payments’.

It said that despite the group’s work and the ‘numerous individual doctors contacting NHS England to flag up errors in the data they eventually received’, there had been no ‘meaningful contact from NHS England seeking to resolve the errors in the pensions data’.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Independent experts have been appointed to work with NHS England, Capita and the NHS Business Services Authority to carry out a complete review of all the data and identify any discrepancies.

‘To date, 383 individual GPs have submitted subject access requests to NHS England to confirm records of their pension payments. Of these, six enquiries are ongoing.’

PWC said it could not comment on client work. 

Capita also declined to comment, but is supporting NHS England to address the issues.

GPs have had longstanding pensions issues. In January of this year, the BMA said it would support practices in taking legal action against Capita, saying the issues, relating to patient record transfers and processing payments, were ‘unacceptable’ and had gone from ‘bad to worse’.

In March the BMA said it had submitted freedom of information requeststo NHS England regarding alleged ‘unallocated’ GP pensions money and the following month the BMA said it was seeking legal advice over the annualisation of pensions, claiming the process was ‘unfair’.