It has transpired that NHS England has been paying compensation fees to GPs for incorrect pension records – but only if they keep quiet by signing a non-disclosure agreement.
Let’s start with something uncontroversial. NHS England should not be paying lawyers public money to conceal the fallout from their mismanagement of GP pensions.
Making compensation for those affected dependent on their signing NDAs is a cover-up – it’s misusing public funds to try to minimise and conceal the evidence of their further misuse of public funds in the atrocious contract they signed in 2015 with Primary Care Support England/Capita, and their management of the subsequent relationship.
This is not said lightly, nor is it a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been working in my spare time, unpaid, to support GPs affected by the pensions debacle, and some of that work has been with NHS England, trying to identify and fix the problems in the system.
That work now means I can say that if you have been affected by PCSE and NHSE’s incompetent handling of pensions then precedent has been set regarding compensation, so please contact them, outline your situation, and request compensation. If they refuse, escalate to the ombudsman.
It’s a source of sadness, of course, that we’ve reached this point. You always hope that volunteering your time and effort tackling a problem will make those in power sit up and listen, and NHS England did respond to the campaign I’ve been running for GP Survival since 2017. Initially that was because they had to respond to hundreds of subject access requests (SARs) from angry GPs, but subsequently I believe they genuinely recognised their decision to outsource GP pensions to Capita/PCSE in 2015 had been disastrous for the workforce.
At the outset, several people who’d been particularly appallingly treated by the scheme had their situations addressed, and after I’d worked with NHSE and the BMA to identify some of the underlying problems, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were brought in to tackle them. NHSE were willing to let me disclose the amounts of unallocated pensions payments in the system, and they made commitments – that complaints wouldn’t be closed spuriously, that a clear mechanism would be put in place for overpayments to be reclaimed, that the system would keep people updated on cases, and that people should not have to resubmit historical data.
GP Survival supported this work – we released a joint statement on retaining pensions forms, publicised it to members, and encouraged GPs to complete historical forms – and this worked, as PCSE had far more end-of-year submissions for 2019/20.
Two years on, however, NHSE have failed to deliver what they promised. Doctors whose cases I raised, who had full investigations into their pensions by PwC, have now had exactly the same problems recur.
Scores of members I’ve worked with had pensions data found in the system by PwC and confirmed by PCSE are now being told it has all been lost again, and are being asked to resubmit it.
These problems affect every GP working currently, and they drive doctors out of work. More to the point, it’s unacceptable – no one should have to spends hours and days every month managing their own pension, never mind when they are already paying someone else to – and NHS England have a duty to provide the service they are failing to. At the moment, their approach is to let Capita keep the money, and rely on tens of thousands of affected GPs to do the actual work.
I would urge everyone to submit compensation claims to NHS England; if they haven’t responded to people volunteering their time and effort over years to fix this, perhaps an ever-increasing bill will get them to.
The next steps for GP Survival are to take a small number of cases to the Pensions Ombudsman, in the hope that where we feel compensation has been unreasonably low, we can obtain a ruling from them. If you would like to donate to this work, please do – we promise never to try to sell you mugs or lanyards, and only use funds for campaign work like that which revealed this problem.
Dr Nick Grundy is a GP in London and campaign lead for GP Survival