The NHS pensions agency issues advice for both GP Locums (GP Locum Factsheet) and for Hospital Locums. ( 2014/15 Tiered Employee Contributions ) . In practice the locums find it difficult to contribute and claim all the pension rights they are eligible for. Rather similar to the “Individual Funding Request” forms for patients referred by GPs, the paperwork and system for pensions is designed to frustrate. It is yet another form of “covert rationing”. When locums are so hard to find (Neil Roberts 5th April 2016 in GP) , the system makes doctors tempted to opt out, and work through agencies who charge even more. (Unfair locum pay pushing NHS into deficit).
There is little flexibility, the system is antiquated and heavily bureaucratic and amounts to obstruction by bureaucracy. The Perverse Incentive for the NHS Pensions Agency to react to the current financial crisis is self evident.
Timings: contributions have to be paid in with the appropriate form within a week of the end of the month in which locums are paid by the employer. Thus a cheque made out on the last day of a month becomes a “pressure” situation, especially if the Dr is “away” for any reason.
Efficacy of the practice: If a doctor works for several practices in the same month he may invoice them at the same time, but he may be paid at completely different times of the next month. practices are efficient and some less so. Practice managers may be absent themselves.
The process: Individuals need to invoice practices with form A, and they sign, stamp, date and return the form. This then has to be send to the Pensions Agency with the appropriate contribution.
Errors: Any error results in a returned form, without qualitative feedback, and of course by the time a new form is completed and sent in the post, the “allowable period” has expired!
Communication: There is no electronic communication. The Pensions Agency will not accept any form of payment accept by cheque.
In the past, before rule changes, there used to be a period of 10 weeks grace within which the forms and cheque could be made.
In Cornwall a new “Locum Chambers” could be beneficial because all invoices will be (ultimately) automatically issued on the same date.
The case of Helen Sanderson (died 2014), where the NHS Pensions agency’s ‘exploitation’ of a loophole, has led to an injustice, is indicative of the current thinking and the dominance of the Perverse Incentive.
Anjlee Sheth writes in 2007 on Becoming a freelance GP: the rules have changed somewhat since then, and NHSreality wonders what he would write now.