Chase de Vere Medical says that too many people are opting-out of the NHS Pension Scheme because of a lack of understanding of the benefits they are giving up.

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Health Service Journal found that 245,561 NHS staff had opted out of the NHS pension scheme in the last three years. According to calculations by Royal London, this represents around 16% of the active membership of the scheme.

It has been well publicised that a number of doctors and consultants are leaving the Scheme because they are facing Annual and Lifetime Allowance tax charges. However, it is particularly concerning that many younger employers are also opting-out, often because of concerns over affordability.

Younger NHS employees are often on lower salaries and so paying into the NHS Pension Scheme may seem like a big expense for a benefit which is many years away. For those earning up to £47,846 per annum, employee pension contributions can be up to 9.3%, while the government pays 14.3% in England and Wales, 14.9% in Scotland and 16.3% in Northern Ireland.

Andrea Sproates, head of Chase de Vere Medical, says: “These employees are giving up benefits and guarantees which would be really expensive to replicate if they were purchased separately. This includes a pension scheme which is excellent value, with a retirement lump sum, and additional benefits such as dependents’, ill health and death in service benefits.

“The whole package of being a member of the NHS Pension Scheme is extremely valuable, but is under-valued by a lack of understanding and awareness of what members’ contributions are really paying for, how much the government adds and the benefits the Scheme provides.

“It is clear from the eye-watering opt-out rates that there is a huge need for NHS employees to be provided with financial education or advice, so that they can make informed decisions about their pension scheme. At present it is likely that many members are leaving the scheme without a clear understanding of what they’re giving up, a decision they are likely to regret in the future.

“Similarly, senior doctors and consultants would also benefit from financial education or advice. Many are opting-out of the Scheme because they are facing tax charges, but they may be better off staying put, even after the tax charges are taken into account, or could find ways to reduce their tax charges, for example, by taking a larger retirement lump sum.”

Further reading on this topic:

Few employers helping workers with financial advice