29 February 2008
Thousands of NHS staff in England and Wales have retirement benefits totalling at least £8.5bn, according to new data.
Figures published by the NHS Business Services Authority pensions division, following a Freedom of Information request by the Taxpayers' Alliance, show that almost 8,500 retired staff receive an annual NHS pension of at least £33,000 per year each.
In December, the Taxpayers' Alliance revealed that a further 3,700 retired civil servants had pensions that totalled at least £1m.
Corin Taylor, a research director at the alliance, said: 'Unfunded public sector pension liabilities are reaching completely unsustainable levels. Every household will have to pay up to £40,000 over the next few decades to fund gold-plated retirement benefits for public sector employees, including £1m pension pots for the NHS elite.'
'Urgent change is needed to reduce the bill to taxpayers – for a start, the pension age for existing public sector employees should be raised to the state pension age as soon as possible,' Taylor added.
The Institute of Economic Affairs has estimated that the bill for unfunded public sector pension liabilities stands at £1,025bn.
Taylor said that the governments 'mishandling' of public sector pensions was 'unfair on people in the private sector', many of whom are expected to work to at least the age of 69 'while seeing their pensions collapse'.
The retirement age for those already working in the public sector is 60, compared with a state pension age of 65, rising to 68 by 2046.
However, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: 'This needs to be set in context. There are a very few members of the NHS Pension Scheme who have a total pension position that is valued at £1m or more; 8,449 individuals from a total of 558,079 NHS pensioners equates to 1.52%.'These pensioners were among the most highly skilled and respected people – staff who were at the top of their pay scales and in some cases would have been in receipt of clinical excellence awards.'