This site is intended for health professionals only

‘Retire and return’ NHS pension changes could be extended

‘Retire and return’ NHS pension changes could be extended

The Government has launched a consultation into extending NHS pension scheme changes that made it easier for retired GPs to return to work during the pandemic.

Emergency ‘retire and return’ pension easements were introduced in March 2020 to allow retired and partially retired GPs and other NHS staff to return to work, or increase their working hours, to help with the pandemic response without having their pension benefits suspended.

The three-week consultation, launched on Sunday, asks if these temporary pension easements ‘should continue beyond the planned expiry on 31 October 2022’ until April 2023.

The consultation document said: ‘Subject to the findings of this consultation, DHSC proposes to lay a statutory instrument, which takes effect from 1 November 2022, to ensure a continuation of the temporary easements to 31 March 2023.’

Temporary suspensions Government proposes to continue:

  • The 16-hour rule, which requires staff who retire and return from the 1995 section to work 16 hours a week (two days) or less in the first month after retirement. Where staff work more than this limit, their pension benefits are temporarily suspended until their working commitments are reduced.
  • Abatement of SCS members, including mental health officers who are eligible to retire from the 1995 section at age 55 instead of 60 without an actuarial reduction in their pension: abatement applies where staff return to work before age 60 and their pension plus salary exceeds their pre-retirement income.
  • Abatement of 2008 section and 2015 scheme members who draw down a portion of their benefits and continue working: abatement requires them to reduce their pensionable pay by 10% upon each election to draw down benefits.

Source: DHSC

However, the BMA has said the consultation is ‘completely disingenuous’ in its suggestion that the ‘small changes proposed’ will ‘have any meaningful effect on waiting times and patient experience’ on their own.

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said the changes will do nothing to stop the ‘exodus’ of GPs who are leaving the NHS due to ‘absurd punitive pensions tax charges’.

He said: ‘It is completely illogical to penalise dedicated staff who wish to return to the NHS after retiring by reducing their pension. 

‘The BMA therefore fully support the abolition of these arrangements. However, the reality is that this policy only affects a small number of doctors seeking to return post-retirement – namely psychiatrists with ‘mental health officer’ status.’

The BMA said it has been warning the Government that the suspension must not be extended but made ‘permanent’, adding that it is ‘negligent’ to have left consulting on the extension so late.

The consultation will run until 11.45pm on 12 September 2022.

Meanwhile, Prime Ministerial candidate Liz Truss has pledged to relax GP pension tax charges in a bid to stem the exodus of doctors from the NHS.

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee has said it is a ‘national scandal’ that GPs are having to work less or leave their jobs altogether due to NHS pension rules.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Hot Felon 31 August, 2022 1:56 pm

All the tea in China couldn’t persuade me to return to a God-awful job and the self-flagellating hand wringing Mother Teresa types within it

David Banner 2 September, 2022 9:49 am

This plan is the proverbial drop in the ocean that will have virtually no impact on the pensions crisis.
If HMG is determined not to change the AA/LA limits (which I understand…….”tax breaks for the wealthy” makes lousy headlines), then the answer is ludicrously simple.
Allow doctors to determine how much of their income they would like to be superannuable.
This flexibility would allow lots of doctors to do desperately needed overtime without punitive pension tax charges, whilst still swelling the treasury coffers with 40% income tax.
The current “all in or all out” model has devastated senior staffing levels.
The clunky Consultant compromise of “50:50” (or the Hokey Cokey “in” the scheme half the year, “out” the other 6 months)-a few years ago was a step in the right direction, but the current massive rise in interest rates (and thus most doctors sailing past the AA limit) dwarfs the situation back then.
Someone in HMG needs to wake up, make the obvious changes, or face up to an entirely avoidable catastrophe.

Paul Hartley 5 September, 2022 6:10 pm

The pension contribution for GP partnerships is in the global sum. It can be taken as income and should be allocated to the individual partner and not the practice, as that was the position when originally established by the negotiations, to allow the flexibility for the individual etc decide where to put their money.