Among the many issues facing doctors, but particularly consultants, pensions is one of the most critical. It is also one that would be relatively easy to ‘fix’ or at least improve but the Department of Health is dragging its heels in making any serious attempt to address it.
There are a range of issues around pensions, some specific to Northern Ireland and some that affect doctors across all the nations.
The main issues we have been lobbying on are: the lifetime allowance being frozen until 2026; the fact that in Northern Ireland we received two pay uplifts in one year causing a bigger annual allowance tax bill; and a lack of recycling of employer contributions in Northern Ireland and no assistance with annual allowance tax bills unlike the other devolved nations.
This year’s pay uplift was, once again, paid late despite the DDRB asking the department to ensure this didn’t happen again.
In all our meetings with the health minister and other elected representatives over the past two years we have shared your views on the problems the pension scheme is causing you and highlighted our research that show 44% of you saying the pension fiasco is the reason you are considering early retirement.
The new CARE (Career Average Revalued Earnings) scheme started on 1 April this year. Unfortunately, despite strong advocacy, the top level of contributions very unfairly are remaining at 14.5% until September which we continue to challenge.
We all know that in Northern Ireland we cannot afford to lose any more doctors from the frontline. Some progress has been made and we expect further meetings with the Department of Health to continue to look at measures they can take to address some of the problems.
As part of this work to address and progress change on pension issues we have formed a new pensions subcommittee for BMA members in Northern Ireland.
It is a sub-committee of Northern Ireland council and representatives from all branches of practice are on the committee. It is chaired by Tom Black. I am one of the representatives for consultants along with David Farren.
Full list of reps
Tom Black (Chair), Alan Stout (GP), Anne Carson (Consultants), Paul Molloy (GP), David Farren (Consultants), Clodagh Corrigan (SAS), Johnny Burns (GP) and Stephen Moore (Consultants).
Anne Carson is chair of the BMA Northern Ireland consultants committee