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Surge in GPs taking 24-hour retirement

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: GPs are moving en masse to draw their NHS pensions early, with a Government clampdown on retirement benefits looming.

Accountants have reported a surge in the number of GPs taking 24-hour-retirement, an option allows GPs to trigger their pensions but return to work.

They say the move is down to growing uncertainty over the future of the NHS Pensions Scheme, with Pulse reporting last month how negotiations have already begun aimed at slashing public spending by ramping up contributions. A proposal to increase the retirement age has also prompted anger.

Martin Hall, client manager at Dodd and Co, said at least one in 10 of the practices it covered had recently begun talks about one or more partners taking 24-hour retirement.

‘We have 100 practices and at least 10% have asked about it if not more - often one or two partners for every inquiry.

‘We have seen more GPs asking about 24-hour retirement. Over the past six months there has been a noticeable increase.'

Dodd and Co said it had detected ‘uncertainty and concern among those doctors as to the future benefits that they will receive from their NHS pensions.'

GP pensions have become a prime target of the coalition Government's cutbacks on public spending, with thousands set to see tax relief for pensions slashed as from April, leading to extra bills of up to £10,000 a year .

In January talks with Government negotiators raised the prospect of GPs being asked to work to 65 instead of 60 as well as increasing contributions, while the Department of Health is ramping up efforts to get GPs to switch to a newer version of the NHS Pension, widely seen as having less attractive benefits, as well as a higher retirement age.

Rosemary Smith, senior partner at RS Medical Accountancy, said: ‘At the moment there is a fear of the unknown amid GPs. I've had a lot of people wanting to look at their situation with regards to their pension.'

24 hour retirement

GPs must retire from their NHS Contracts for not less than 24 hours

GPs must not work more than 16 hours per week in the first month after retirement

Partners then entitled receive their normal profit share, getting greater share than those partners who are still making superannuation contributions

The pension and lump sum will be abated if drawn before the age of 60.

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