Headlines: September 15th, 2004

Half of doctors believe increasing the age at which they become entitled to a pension from 60 to 65 will cause recruitment problems for the National Health Service. The British Medical Association invited doctors to take part in an online survey on the issue and almost 5,000 responded.

The Association organised the survey to gather views on retirement and pensions to help inform its discussions with the NHS Confederation who are leading a review of the NHS pension scheme in England and Wales on behalf of the Department of Health. The present, minimum age at which a pension can be taken from the NHS scheme, without any financial penalty, is 60. The Government indicated it wants to increase this to 65 for new employees from 2006 and for existing staff from 2013.

The BMA survey found that doctors were most likely to plan to retire at 60. Only 8 per cent of those under 60 currently intend to work until 65 or older. The doctors were asked about the likely effect on recruitment to the health service of an increase in the pension age. Just over half – 51 per cent thought it would deter people from joining the NHS. Only 0.3 per cent thought that it would attract more people.

When they were asked what effect an increase in pension age from 60 to 65 might have on their decision to leave or retire from the service, three out of four doctors said they would leave on or before the date they intended, regardless of the change in pension age.

Dr Simon Fradd, who chairs the BMA’s Pensions Committee said: doctors had made it clear that raising the pension age was unlikely to have the desired effect of encouraging more doctors to work longer for the NHS and there was strong evidence that some would leave earlier than they had planned if the pension age was raised.

“But this is wider than just doctors. The Government should be offering incentives that will encourage healthcare professionals to work longer for the NHS rather than putting financial pressure on people to retire later,” he said.