Exclusive GPs starting retirement are seeing delays with the processing of their pensions, Capita has admitted.
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) states that it will take three months for GP pension applications to be approved for those wishing to retire.
But Pulse has learned that one GP who is planning to retire next month has so far waited almost nine months for his application to be approved, with no sign that his pension will arrive in time.
When asked by Pulse whether Primary Care Support England (PCSE) – which processes pensions on behalf of the NHS BSA and is run by Capita – can guarantee that applications are processed within the stated three months, Capita declined to make a formal statement.
However, a spokesperson admitted that PCSE currently has a backlog of cases.
They told Pulse on background that a backlog has materialised due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, including staff illness.
PCSE is working to resolve this and has established new processes to streamline the process for prospective retirees, such as one agent owning each case from start to finish, they added.
Capita also declined to provide data on processing times for GP pensions.
What have GPs been told about pension processing times?
‘NHS Pensions require your application form to be submitted three months before your retirement date.
‘This allows us enough time to calculate and authorise payment of your benefits so that they can be put into payment for you on your date of retirement.’
Source: NHS BSA
Wolverhampton GP partner Dr David Bush told Pulse that although he was originally quoted a lead time of three months, he applied for his pension 10 months before his planned retirement and is still waiting after almost nine.
He said he is worried that his pension will not arrive in time for his retirement on 20 March and that it will be calculated incorrectly, meaning he will have no opportunity to check and rectify this before receiving it.
He told Pulse: ‘I applied in May 2021 and heard nothing for months. Eventually when I phoned, they told me that there was a six-to-eight-month wait to process applications.
‘Then they told me they could not begin the process until 105 days before my retirement date.’
He added: ‘I’m now [six] weeks from retirement and have no idea if or when pension will be paid, or whether they will have got the figures correct.’
In October, Dr Bush made a formal complaint about the delay and ‘non-existent’ communication from PCSE regarding his application’s progress, despite ‘regular chasing’ and assurances in September that his retirement ‘had been approved online and that “all lights were green”’.
In his complaint, seen by Pulse, he said PCSE’s handling of his application to retire was ‘entirely unsatisfactory’.
He added: ‘I have no confidence that my application will be processed prior to my retirement and this will leave me without any source of income.
‘I [also] have no confidence that my retirement benefits will be calculated accurately or that I will have the opportunity to check them.’
GP pensions expert Dr Nick Grundy told Pulse that ‘most GPs will face [pension] delays at retirement’ and that it is ‘disappointing’ that little has changed after years of raising the issue with PCSE.
Dr Grundy, who is a GP in Richmond, said: ‘It’s very common. Generally, I’d say people should retire when they want to and then they can use some of their retirement to go through the ombudsman process and make clear how big an issue this is.
‘What tends to happen otherwise is that people stay in work and they disadvantage themselves financially and personally because they’re waiting for an incompetent organisation to get its act together.’
He added that nothing has changed since the first case he raised with NHS England in 2018, when a doctor waited more than a year for their pension and was forced to delay their retirement as a result.
Dr Grundy said: ‘I don’t think any of the things I raised back then have got better to be honest, I’m still seeing people with palliative care, terminal illnesses who are not even being told what their pension is.
‘Nothing’s really changed. It’s disappointing.’
Capita did not reply to an invitation to respond to the comments.
Meanwhile, the primary care minister last month said that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will meet with the Treasury to ‘look at’ GP pension concerns.
Ongoing problems with GP pensions
In November, it was revealed that a group of doctors overpaid pensions tax to the tune of £11m.
The portal has been plagued with issues since it launched in June and the BMA has warned that practices must not be left to correct errors in it and that GPs must be compensated for any time and money spent putting things right.
In 2018 consultancy firm PwC was appointed to help review all GP pension data, which NHS England said would have a ‘significant’ impact on a ‘large proportion of the GP community’.
But at the start of 2020, it was revealed only one in four GP pension records for 2017/18 were up to date.
13 January 2022
28 October 2021