It’s decision time. Talks on massive changes to our pensions have concluded and the UK government has made its ‘final offer’ on the England & Wales scheme (we’re still waiting to hear what happens in Scotland & Northern Ireland but barring a minor miracle aren’t expecting anything too different).
Either we accept huge changes to our pensions, or we prepare for the first ballot of doctors on industrial action since the seventies. As new Chair of the Pensions Committee (and what impeccable timing I displayed there!) the most important thing I’m going to ask you to do is to complete the survey on the offer being posted to all BMA members in early January.
There are a lot of ironies to the current situation. There’s the fact that NHS staff are facing massive contribution hikes despite the fact that our pension scheme is delivering billions to the Treasury while other schemes are in deficit (estimated £10bn over the next five years). Or that we’re being told our pensions need an overhaul to make them affordable, when they already underwent a massive overhaul only three years ago that included a cost-sharing agreement so the general public wouldn’t have to pay for any increase in the cost of the scheme.
But as a registrar probably the biggest irony to me is that the people who are going to be hardest hit by these changes often seem to be less aware of what’s happening than their senior colleagues. This is a great worry when the changes will have such a significant impact. Pensions can seem a long way off when you’re starting out your career, but they’re deferred pay after all and for many it will feel like a further pay cut.
From next April, pension contributions will increase – very sharply in some cases. The changes mean that a junior doctor could typically pay over £200,000 in additional contributions over the course of their career. That career will be longer, like it or not – you’ll have to work to 68 before you can draw a full pension. And the deal you get on retirement is likely to be worth less – a junior doctor aged 25 can expect their overall pension benefits to be worth 16.5% less over the course of their retirement.
Contrary to some of the media reports, the health unions, including the BMA, have not agreed to this ‘final offer’ announced by the government on the 20th December. We are gauging the views of our members before we decide on the next step. So please complete the survey – if you don’t, you’re risking someone else making a decision about your future.