MSPs raise redundancy fears over NHS pension changes

Changes to NHS pensions from next week could lead to redundancies and increased difficulty in recruiting and retaining GPs, MSPs have warned.

The current employer contribution rate will rise from 14.9% to 20.9% on April 1, following the latest valuation for the pension scheme.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee warned that the change could have a detrimental effect on GP practices, hospices and charities unless the funding shortfall is met.

Labour MSP Dave Stewart told the committee that the change would affect GPs “dramatically”, through increasing staff costs.

“This may end up in redundancies in the longer term,” he said.

“It may also affect GP practices who cannot continue, and go back to health boards, which is a worry.

“There’s a particular issue in rural areas – it will affect the recruitment and retention of GPs.”

David Stewart MSP
David Stewart MSP

Mr Stewart highlighted analysis from Children’s Hospices Across Scotland that this will cost them an estimated £350,000 a year – equivalent to the salary for nine full-time nurses.

He said the UK Government passing on funding to deal with the impact on Scotland through the Barnett formula would allay his concerns.

SNP MSP Sandra White said a lot of people are not aware of the change and that it could have “really dire affects on front-line services”.

She said: “It’s them [the UK Government] that have raised this pension funding, therefore it shouldn’t be incumbent upon us, the Scottish Parliament, which doesn’t have that power, to make up the shortfall.”

Committee convener Lewis Macdonald said Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes had written to the committee stating: “Failure to fully fund these costs will have a significant and detrimental effect on the delivery of essential front-line services in Scotland.

She added: “If there is a shortfall in the funding from the UK, the Scottish Government will consider how this shortfall will be met.”

Mr Macdonald suggested the committee write to Ms Forbes seeking confirmation that “come what may, the shortfall will be met and there will not be the impact on GP practices, hospices and others”.

The committee agreed to write to the minister and also registered no formal objection to change in regulations.