By Alisdair Stirling
Exclusive: GPs are threatening to quit en masse before the Government brings in hugely controversial changes to the NHS Pension Scheme that would raise the retirement age to 65 and beyond.
More than a third of GPs have told a Pulse survey they plan to ‘retire as a GP before the changes come in’, amid huge anger at the proposals laid out in Lord Hutton’s report on public-sector pensions.
Almost as many – 28% – said they would take advantage of 24-hour retirement to claim their pension early while coming back to work part-time, raising serious questions over whether the Government will be able to impose the pension changes on the profession.
Only 42% of the 200 GPs responding to the survey said they would be prepared to work as they are now under the proposed changes to the pension – which would eventually raise the GP retirement age to 68.
BMA Council members are understood to be ‘agitated’ about the pension changes and are preparing to back up talks with the threat of action or some kind of legal challenge.
Dr Helena McKeown, a GP in Salisbury and member of BMA Council, told Pulse: ‘It’s at the negotiation stage, but some sort of legal challenge might be on the table down the line. I’m not a lawyer but I would have thought it’s a possibility.’
The threat of the profession leaving in droves came as a further 80 GPs added their name to Pulse’s No to 65 petition, taking the number of sign-ups so far well over the 1,000 mark.
The Family Doctor Association this week threw its weight behind Pulse’s petition, with its chair Dr Peter Swinyard saying: ‘I’ve added my name personally. Our organisation would be delighted to join your campaign.’
The BMA said it ‘strongly opposed an increase in the retirement age’, but declined to support the campaign as it was ‘still in the process of discussing the way forward’.
Adding his name to the petition, Professor Tony Avery, a GP in Nottingham, said: ‘General practice is a tough job and working that extra five years between 60 and 65 could be seriously damaging to health and life expectancy.’
Dr Claire de Mortimer, a GP locum , said: ‘This is unjust and wrong. As a counter measure, could we claim retrospectively for all of the unpaid hours we worked as juniors?’
Dr Colin Brunt, a GP in Manchester, said: ‘I would be willing to strike over this issue.’
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