In March, shortly before the budget, Lord Hutton is expected to publish his final report on public-sector pensions. While his interim report rightly challenged the myth of gold-plated pensions for public servants, there is growing speculation that some of his recommendations could be less than welcome.
Judging by the emails to the BMA pension's department, one of the main fears of GPs is that the age they can draw their pension will be raised.
It is not out of the question that this will be one of Lord Hutton's recommendations, although I would stress that an increase in the normal pensionable age (NPA) is not currently being negotiated. The Department of Health has been quite open in the past that it would like to see an increase, but it is currently waiting to see what emerges from the review before progressing talks.
If the NPA for NHS staff was to increase, it is almost inconceivable the change would apply to anything other than future service.
If you had just qualified, the bulk of your service would be based on a pensionable age of 65. If you were mid-career, then your pension would have split retirement ages, and if you were close to the end of your career, the impact would be far smaller.
The BMA has been clear a hike in the NPA for staff in service would be unacceptable.
Apart from the unfairness of such a radical overhaul just three years after introducing a scheme to which both unions and employers agreed, there would be a real risk of a staff exodus as doctors in their 50s – many of whom are able to take voluntary early retirement – consider their futures.
BMA staff participate in meetings of the National Pension Scheme Governance Group and its subcommittee, the technical advisory group. The relationship is useful when both sides broadly agree the terms of engagement but, be under no doubt, we are ready for a fight if the goalposts are moved.
More information at www.bma.org.uk/pensions.
Dr Andrew Dearden
Chair, BMA pension's committee