The BMA today repeated its call for talks with the government on pensions, as new figures show that many junior doctors could be better off investing in a private pension than joining the reformed NHS scheme. The call for dialogue comes as doctors and medical students attending the BMA's annual conference in Cardiff passed a motion calling for a possible ballot of BMA membership on industrial action.*

Initial figures from illustrative modelling commissioned by the BMA* show that the potential pension a doctor embarking on a career as a GP could expect to build up in the NHS scheme - assuming it undergoes key reforms proposed by the government - could be lower than the pension built up by investing in a personal scheme (in which there are no employer contributions.)

Proposals to increase the retirement age could also have a dramatic impact. A junior doctor currently aged 30 could expect to work to the age of 68 rather than 60. Over the course of the additional eight years worked, they could expect to pay more than £140,000 in contributions.

The BMA is concerned that if the NHS pension ceases to provide value to doctors, many would opt out, potentially destabilising the largest public sector pension scheme, and adding to the burden on the state.

In a speech to the conference, Dr Andrew Dearden, Chairman of the BMA's Pensions Committee, called on the government to "stop throwing punches" and enter into dialogue. Dr Dearden emphasised that many of the changes proposed by the government for public sector pensions have already been applied to the NHS scheme, which is currently in surplus:

"There is great anger and fear among doctors and medical students. And rightly so, when you consider that the NHS pension scheme is in a very different position from other public sector schemes. It went through a major overhaul only three years ago. And for all the talk of it not being affordable to the taxpayer, it is currently delivering a massive surplus of £2 billion per year to the Treasury.

"In 2008, we agreed to work longer and pay more. Our message to the government is simple - we want to be treated fairly and have a reasonable dialogue on pensions - something that has been sadly lacking so far. The government wants you to work longer, pay more and get a lot less. This is no way to treat the very doctors who have devoted their entire careers to patients and the NHS."

Commenting on the motion on industrial action, Dr Dearden said: "While feelings are running high, industrial action would only ever be a last resort. Doctors always think of their patients first, and it would never be a decision that would be taken lightly. We're definitely not at that stage yet, and it would be premature to be talking about specific forms of action."


The new figures are illustrative examples only, based on initial information from the government on possible future changes to pensions benefits. Any doctor considering decisions on their pensions is advised to contact the BMA Pensions Department or an independent financial adviser.

The wording of the motion debated at the BMA Annual Representative Meeting today was as follows:

That this Meeting:-

i) believes that increasing the normal pension age for NHS staff will not be in the interest of the NHS; carried

ii) believes a final salary pension scheme for hospital doctors should be the favoured affordable option for the NHS as it provides a major incentive for recruitment and retention of high calibre NHS hospital doctors; carried

iii) believes that a CARE NHS pension system will give hospital doctors a significantly worse pension on retirement due to their pay structure increasing right to the end of their careers; carried

iv) believes that a revised CARE scheme for GPs will be unacceptable and may result in up to a third of GPs retiring prematurely; carried as a reference

v) believes that tiered pension contributions are unacceptable in a CARE scheme for doctors; carried as reference

vi) calls on the BMA, in the event that there is a government plan to halt the final salary pension scheme and replace it with an unfavourable career average (CARE) scheme for doctors, to ballot the BMA membership regarding all forms of industrial action; carried

British Medical Association