Commenting on the Government’s response to the consultation on public service pension schemes, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said:
“The BMA fiercely opposed the pensions changes that forced doctors to move to a new pension scheme in 2015, and we were glad when the Court of Appeal ruled that younger members, who were not offered transitional protection, had been unlawfully discriminated against.
“It was clear that action was needed to rectify this, and now the Government has listened to the BMA and its members in its proposed solution.
“The BMA, backed by thousands of its members, was clear in its submission1 to the consultation that doctors must not be forced to make an immediate decision on which scheme to be a part of, especially in the midst of a pandemic when they’re facing the most intense pressures of their careers. It’s therefore common sense that the Government has listened to us and opted for deferred choice, with this crucial decision being made at the time of retirement. The NHS Pension Scheme is incredibly complex and doctors’ career progression can be unpredictable, meaning it’s impossible to know for certain which scheme is most suitable if making the decision decades away from retirement, and the same applies for doctors in the Armed Forces. It is only at the point of retirement that doctors will have in their possession all of the relevant information from which they can make an informed decision as to what is the best decision for them.
“However, while the move to a deferred choice model was the only acceptable option for our members, the failure to adequately ensure those who made decisions based on the age discrimination are able to rectify these is worrying. Doctors may have opted out of the scheme, taken early retirement, cancelled added years contracts or decided to work part-time, with knock-on effects to their pension entitlement. The Government has said that these decisions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, requiring doctors to prove that these decisions were made as a result of the discrimination. This puts all of the onus on individual members and is a huge administrative burden for doctors when they should be focusing on patients. The approach should be far more streamlined, giving automatic eligibility to members in certain circumstances to purchase any pension entitlement lost as a result of these decisions.
“Meanwhile, as this was a situation entirely of the Government’s making, we’re concerned at the suggestion that members will be footing the bill for these changes, with the costs feeding back into the scheme.
“The complex NHS pension system and its punitive taxation arrangements are key reasons behind the medical recruitment and retention crisis, and it is vital that there is real reform, including the scrapping of the annual allowance in defined benefit schemes, to ensure fairness and to allow doctors and other healthcare workers to remain in the profession treating patients.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.