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Q&As

5 July 2005 - 9:10am

Members' questions on the pensions review are answered here...

The most commonly asked questions by members relating to the NHS pensions review are answered below

Q. The concise version of the consultation document is not particularly clear in parts. Where do I go for an explanation?

A. Start by looking up the relevant chapter in the detailed consultation document. This can be found on the appropriate website for your own country. For England & Wales this is www.nhsemployers.org. For Scotland see www.scotland.gov.uk/sppa. For Northern Ireland see www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/superann/index.asp. If things still aren't clear, try contacting the pensions officer for your own trust.

Q. How will I find out how the various proposals will affect me personally?

A. Included in the information available on the employers' websites are a number of 'ready reckoners' which should allow you to calculate the potential effect on your pension of, for example, introducing a NPA of 65, a 1/60th accrual rate, or replacing final salary with CARE. If you have difficulty using the ready reckoners, use the channels described above to help you. In addition, there are a number of examples of different career paths contained in Annex E of the detailed consultation document that compare what kind of pension someone would get under a CARE scheme as opposed to a final salary scheme.

Q. If I choose to transfer to the new scheme, do better survivor benefits apply to previous contributions?

A. If you choose to give up your NPA protection and move to the new scheme immediately, all the improvements contained in the new scheme will apply to all of your service. Otherwise they will only apply to service accrued after NPA protection has ended (see section 9.32 of the main consultation document).

Q. How can I find out which employer will offer a free year for career breaks?

A. If this particular proposal is adopted, it will be down to individual members to make a request to their own employer.

Q. What is the reason for looking at CARE scheme v Final Salary Scheme?

A. The main arguments for and against introducing career average earnings to replace final salary in the proposed new pension scheme are outlined in detail in the main consultation document (section 8).

Q. How will things change after 2013?

A. The current proposals envisage that, once the period of protection against NPA 65 has ended, existing members will have access to the same broad package of improvements as members of the new scheme, except that the improvements will apply to future service only.

Q How likely is the recommendation to protect special class status indefinitely to be accepted by Government?

A. Feedback received through the current consultation process will be an important factor. This is why it is so important for individual CSP members to feed in their views direct to NHS Employers (for England & Wales) and the equivalent bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland who are managing the consultation process. If sufficient numbers of individual members can find the time to do this it will make a difference.

Q. What is special class status?

A. There is a group of health service staff, including qualified physiotherapists, who currently have reserved rights to retire at 55 with no actuarial reduction in pension, providing there has not been a break in service of 5 years or more. In addition, staff with mental health officer status have service after 20 years enhanced as well as the right to retire at 55. These rights were withdrawn for all new entrants to the NHS pension scheme from 6th March 1995. If you are not sure whether you currently qualify for special class or mental health officer status, it is recommended that you contact your current employer's pension officer or the NHS pensions agency.

Q. Why can't all physios have lifelong protection?

A. The recommendation to give staff with special retirement rights lifetime protection against NPA 65 is based on the explicit agreement reached with the unions in 1995 guaranteeing these rights would be maintained. For other staff across the public sector, the Government's intention is to introduce NPA 65 after a more limited period of protection. This move is strongly opposed by all public sector unions.

Q. If I transfer to the new scheme, will it be on a one-to-one basis?

A. Under the current proposals, if you choose to give up your NPA protection and transfer straight away to the new scheme, it is envisaged that the transfer value for years of service earned in the current scheme would be at, or close to, one year in the new scheme for one year in the old.

Q. Previous service: what exactly is protected?

A. All pension rights accrued upto the date at which protection ends.

Q Why are there currently two contribution rates of 5% and 6%?

A. Historically, manual workers in the NHS have paid a lower contribution rate because of generally lower earnings and fewer opportunities for career progression. With Agenda for Change, manual workers will be treated the same as other staff with the same job evaluation outcome, therefore it is proposed that for existing staff, everyone in Bands 1 and 2 should pay the same 5% rate.

Q. Will ill health retirement provisions change?

A. These are going to be subject to a separate review during 2005. See paras 8.88-89 of the main consultation document.

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