BMA warns of exodus of doctors from the NHS if pension changes go ahead

The British Medical Association (BMA) predicts an exodus of doctors from the NHS, starting with a retirement surge in 2006, if plans to reduce the value of NHS pensions and increase the retirement age from 60 to 65 years go ahead.

Commenting on a survey of doctors’ view on the NHS Pension Scheme Review, James Johnson, chairman of the BMA, said: “Our members make it very clear there is no support for increasing the normal pension age to 65. The BMA is very firmly against this change.”

GPs already have a pension scheme based on career average earnings, but hospital doctors have a final salary scheme. The Pension Scheme Review asks if the career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme should apply to all.

Johnson said: “More than 95% of consultants and 93% of junior doctors in the BMA survey want to stick with their current final salary scheme. The BMA will oppose an extension of the CARE method to all doctors.”

So far 3,325 BMA doctors have completed the current BMA pensions survey and more than 1,000 have e-mailed their MPs with their concerns about the pension proposals.

Last summer, the BMA received nearly 5,000 responses to a questionnaire on proposed changes to pensions. Of those doctors, 75% said they would leave earlier, or at the same age, as they originally intended if the pension age was increased to 65. More than half thought the increase would be a deterrent to NHS recruitment.

“If the pension proposals are pushed through there will be an exodus of doctors from the health service, not just from the effective date of any change but with immediate effect as disillusioned staff make career choices based on new pension arrangements,” said Johnson.

While some of the flexibilities proposed in the NHS Pensions Scheme Review are welcomed by doctors, they believe a move to any new scheme must be voluntary and not compulsory. The majority of doctors (67%) thought all savings from the changes to the scheme should be used to improve pension benefits.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chairman of the BMA’s pensions committee, said: “Pensions are deferred pay and a fundamental part of the remuneration package. A reduction in the value of the current pension scheme amounts to a pay cut.”

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