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PCSE not processing GP pensions on time, Capita admits

GP pensions

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.

It comes as the pensions ombudsman ruled in October against PCSE and the NHS BSA, saying they ‘negligently’ handled a doctor’s pension contributions

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.

And the BMA started formal steps in November to request a judicial review into the Government’s ‘unlawful’ handling of NHS pensions.

READERS' COMMENTS [13]

Dave Haddock 4 February, 2022 2:32 pm

The application process involves submitting an AW8 form on line; cunningly however the file size of the completed form exceeds the capacity of the website and is rejected.
You need a CAS number to submit online enquiries, without which the enquiry cannot be submitted; cunningly PCSE neglect to give out CAS numbers. E-mails are ignored. Getting through to the telephone fob-off line takes 30 minutes minimum, the minion knows nothing, tells you nonsense, and they promise to call you back but never do. Complaints are ignored.

Dave Haddock 4 February, 2022 2:40 pm

The BMA’s response to all of this appears inspired by the Useless Sharks from Viz.

Perhaps Pulse could submit a Freedom of Information request; how many GPs get paid within 3, 6, 9, 12 months, longer, from submitting their claim?

And a colleague, several years after taking the pension has just now had the pension reduced by several hundred pounds and been given a demand to refund alleged “overpayment”.

Diana Foster 4 February, 2022 4:34 pm

I submitted my AW 8 form to PCSE 3 months ahead of my retirement date in mid August ( as per the information on NHS pensions website). It was apparently ‘prioritised’ in mid-September with the assurance that it would be processed within 10 working days. I have phoned every 2 weeks since then, each time being assured that my case had been escalated. At the end of November I was told that there was a dedicated team dealing with the 136 GPs who should have received their pension in 2021 so it would definitely be processed by 21/12.21.
As nothing had happened by 31st December I called again to be told it would be escalated!!

On 4th January I sent a 3rd complaint ( the first two weren’t even acknowledged) – copied it in to my MP and Sajid Jarvid and received an email the next day requesting relevant documentation – all of which were sent with the AW8. Within a couple of days it had been processed and sent to NHS pensions.

Still haven’t received my money 5+ months after my retirement date and 8+ months after applying for it!!

David Bush 4 February, 2022 5:12 pm

Sounds very familiar Dave!

David Bush 4 February, 2022 5:14 pm

Diana Foster – that is appalling. I’m hoping this story will put a rocket under their nether regions!

Diana Foster 4 February, 2022 5:55 pm

My MP is willing to address the ‘institutional failings’ once I’ve actually got my money!

He has already emailed Michael Brodie Chief executive of NHS Business Services who basically denied that PCSE answer to them but the above article would suggest otherwise!

Dave Haddock 4 February, 2022 9:39 pm

I’m wondering if imitating the strategy of the Insulate Britain mob might raise attention?
Happy to glue myself to the door of the PCSE offices in Leeds or Preston; I draw the line at Clacton though.

Sarah Griffith 6 February, 2022 6:43 pm

I retired July 31st 2021 still waiting

Imogen Bloor 7 February, 2022 3:50 pm

I find myself in a very similar situation ( now in the 8th month after applying, numerous contacts with PCSE etc ) . I am still waiting for a coherent response having finally had my case ‘escalated’ nearly 3 weeks ago. Truly kafkaesque & unacceptable.

Moira Sutcliffe 8 February, 2022 3:02 pm

Yes I retired on 31st July 2021 and despite various phone calls when I was told they were going to “escalate” my application, I have received nothing.
Online queries are not answered, and if you try to ring they are full of promises but fail to deliver!

Dave Haddock 8 February, 2022 4:09 pm

They had problems before Covid, but it looks as if “working from home” has not been a great success for Capita.

Jeremy Platt 1 March, 2022 11:14 am

Mine was due on 14 Feb and have heard nothing

Dave Haddock 30 March, 2022 4:41 pm

How is it going?
Anyone any progress?