GPs will be able to defer a decision on which pension scheme to be part of when they retire, under changes confirmed by the Government.
It comes after the Government published a set of proposals designed to alleviate age discrimination against GPs who were moved onto a new NHS pension scheme in 2015.
Under the proposals, GPs on the NHS pension scheme who were moved from legacy pension schemes in 2015 to new pension schemes would be able to choose which they receive benefits from in the period between April 2015 and March 2022 (the ‘remedy period’).
The Government has this week published its response to the consultation on the proposals, confirming that GPs will be able to choose which option they want to take at the time they start drawing their pension.
They will be deemed to have accrued benefits in legacy schemes during the ‘remedy period’ rather than the reformed schemes until they have made a choice, the Government said.
And those already retired and/or receiving a pension will be given the choice ‘as soon as practicable’ after the changes are implemented, with the decision applied ‘retrospectively’ to their award, it added.
The document said: ‘Whilst the courts found that the transitional protection arrangements in introducing the reforms were unlawfully discriminatory, the reforms themselves are not.
‘From 1 April 2022 therefore, anyone who remains in service will do so as a member of their respective reformed scheme, meaning everyone is treated in the same way in this respect.’
The BMA pensions committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said the move was ‘common sense’, due to both the ongoing pandemic and doctors’ ‘unpredictable’ career progression.
However, he added that while the deferred choice was ‘the only acceptable option’, the Government’s ‘failure’ to ensure those who already made career decisions based on the age discrimination can rectify them is ‘worrying’.
Dr Sharma said: ‘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 will create a ‘huge administrative burden for doctors when they should be focusing on patients’, and members should be given ‘automatic eligibility’ to purchase any pension entitlement lost ‘in certain circumstances’, he added.
A version of this article was previously published in our sister title Pulse
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