Worn-out dentists a threat to patient care

Patient care could suffer with worn out dentists forced to work longer due to rising pension contributions, government has been warned.

Ministers announced an ‘improved’ offer on NHS pensions which would see 530,000 staff earning between £15,000 and £26,557 spared any rise in pension contributions next year.

But it will mean higher-earning employees would be expected to contribute more. It is likely that, at the end of three years’ of expected increases, the average general dental practitioner (GDP) will face a hike in contributions of more than £2,000.

And salaried dentists face even steeper increases to protect their future pensions, because they pay contributions on 100% of their salaries – unlike the 44% for GDPs.

Peter Ward, chief executive of the British Dental Association, said the amended proposals presented to the BDA and other healthcare unions do not represent a significant shift from the offer made in November.

He said: ‘Under the terms of the proposals dentists, like other public sector workers, would pay significantly more for less favourable pensions. Higher paid workers will pay significantly more than their lower paid colleagues.

‘The BDA remains concerned about the potential impact of these proposals, which would appear to encourage those working in strenuous clinical professions such as dentistry to continue in their roles for longer. This isn’t necessarily in the best interests of patients and the BDA has urged
careful consideration of this issue. We supported the day of action on November 30 and will continue to work with other health and public sector unions to produce the most appropriate possible agreement.’

The government has raised the cap on higher contributions to be demanded of top-paid public servants to 6%, to ease the pain for low-earners.

Ministers say the increases in employee contributions have been distributed among higher earners where they will be significantly offset by the benefit of tax relief for higher rate taxpayers.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘Having listened to staff and stakeholders, we have improved our proposals so that an extra 530,000 NHS staff will not pay any more into their pensions next year.

‘Public service pensions will remain among the very best available, providing a guaranteed pension level for all employees – today very few private sector employers still offer this. But people are living longer and pensions are costing taxpayers more and more every year.

‘These changes alone will not be enough to ensure that NHS pensions are affordable in the long term. We are continuing to discuss wider changes to pensions with Trades Unions. But we are clear that people will also keep whatever they have already earned. We will honour in full benefits earned through years of service – which means little, if any, change for those close to retirement.’

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