For something so crucial to our welfare, it's quite staggering how news about the NHS Pension Scheme has to be drip-fed to GPs via outlets like the medical press, BMA and NASGP rather than any form of personal communication to those of us who contribute to the scheme. It doesn't inspire confidence on how the NHS values its workforce or one of the key benefits of working within the NHS.
A case in point is the latest 'news' on annualisation for GP locums. As we write, GPonline has the most up-to-date information. One question still left unanswered though is about what is (or isn't) in the small print.
One month or one day?
At the moment, we're in no doubt that the 'three month rule' is being removed to bring it into line with GP partners and salaried GPs, but we can't tell from the new changes whether the period of grace will be reduced down to one month, as was the case for GP partners and salaried GPs, or one day.
Should we be allowed one month's grace, there's a fighting chance that a 'typical' GP locum who works at least one session in every calendar month will not be annualised. But that still leaves plenty of us at risk of annualisation: summer holidays with the kids, all maternity leave, illness or even a modest sabbatical.
But if the period is down to just one day, every single locum working in England or Wales will have their NHS pension annualised, in many if not most cases leading to our NHS pension contributions doubling, for absolutely no extra benefit in what is a career average earnings based scheme.
The double-irony is that GP locums are also the only ones who don't benefit from death-in-service benefits; when it suits NHS Pensions, we are treated as being available to work every day, when it doesn't, we're only covered during the hours we work. You almost couldn't make it up.
Richard has worked as a freelance GP locum since 1995 in around 100 different practices, living and working in West Sussex and Hampshire. He founded NASGP in 1997, he is NASGP’s chairman and started the UK’s first locum chambers in 2004.
He enjoys walking, is a keen potter, reads too many books on behavioural economics and has an unhealthy obsession with his sourdough starter.