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Scottish Government rules out consultation on DH pension plans

GPs in Scotland look set to be left 'without a voice' on Westminster pension plans, after the Scottish Government said it would not be consulting doctors on Department of Health proposals. 

The Scottish Government said it would not be consulting doctors on pension plans tabled last week by the Department of Health.

Dr Brian Keighley, chair of the BMA in Scotland, warned that  a failure to consult Scottish doctors will leave them without 'a voice' in the row over the UK Government's planned pension hike for GPs. The coalition plans a hike in GP contributions of up to six percentage points by 2014.

Today, the Scottish Government backtracked on earlier information provided to Pulse that had suggested Holyrood leaders had ruled out consulting Scottish doctors on the public sector pensions reforms.

A spokesperson told Pulse it would not be consulting Scottish GPs on the Department of Health plans due to them being a Westminster, rather than Scottish Government, policy. However, they said the Scottish Government will 'consult fully' if the UK government's pension changes start 'affecting public sector staff in Scotland'.

While the Scottish Government insists that the Westminster plans will only affect the NHS pension scheme in England and Wales, BMA Scotland has warned that Scottish doctors will be impacted by the reforms. Although Scottish GPs belong to a separate pension scheme to their English and Welsh counterparts, Dr Keighley, a GP in Balfron, said it was ‘usual practice' for the Scottish pensions scheme to adopt the same provisions as the England and Wales NHS scheme.

‘Without a Scottish consultation, doctors and other NHS staff in Scotland will not have a voice in this important issue,' he said.

‘The Scottish Government has publicly expressed its concerns about changes to public sector pensions and shares many of our concerns. Whilst we appreciate that the Scottish Government is constrained in relation to public sector pensions, we would hope that a Scottish consultation together with an appropriate response from the Scottish Government, would help to influence the approach of the UK Government on this issue.'

The Scottish Government spokesperson said Holyrood leaders 'were aware of the BMA's concerns' over pensions and reiterated its opposition to the UK Government's plans: 

'We have made clear our opposition to the proposals and, given the current pressure on household budgets, the Finance Secretary has called on the UK Government to think again. Although the policy responsibility for this issue is primarily reserved to Westminster, we hope that the UK Government will respond flexibly to our concerns.'

Last week the Department of Health announced a consultation on pension plans for NHS staff in England and Wales that will form the starting point for negotiations between DH officials and unions, including the BMA, on an NHS-wide pension settlement.  The plans – attacked by the BMA as a ‘tax on health professionals'  - show GPs earning £100,000 annually will pay an extra £2,300 a year in pension contributions next year, with further rises in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

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