MHA | Primary Care Networks and Pensions – Applying for Access

Primary Care Networks and Pensions – Applying for Access

Posted on: November 14th 2022 · read

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Our Healthcare Specialist, Lisa Pennington delivers a quick summary on how Primary Care Networks can access the NHS Pension Scheme.

General rules on NHS Pension Scheme Access

For healthcare staff to have access to the NHS pension scheme, the employing body must qualify as an ‘employing authority’ under the scheme and thus be issued with an EA code.

Employing authority (EA) status to access the NHS pensions scheme can be acquired through different routes depending on the organisation type:

 • NHS statutory bodies have automatic status

 • GP practices holding GMS/PMS/APMS contracts have automatic status

 • Non-NHS organisations are subject to pension rules which determine eligibility based on holding a qualifying contract i.e., APMS/ICP/NHS Standard contract.

Primary Care Networks (PCN) set up and access

If no corporate entity is used by a PCN then the staff will be employed by one of the practices and thus have automatic access to the NHS Pension Scheme via the practices GMS/PMS or APMS contract.

Where the PCN is planning to, or has already, set up or utilises an existing limited liability vehicle, such as a GP federation, the staff employed by that body under the Network Contract DES are given eligibility to join the scheme under certain conditions covered below, otherwise they may not be able to access the NHS pension scheme unless the body itself holds a qualifying contract (NHS Standard Contract or APMS Contract) which enables the organisation to have EA status for those working on that contract.

It is therefore important for all organisations wanting their staff to have access to the NHS pension Scheme to fully understand their employing authority status, which contracts have the EA code and thus if change occurs how to deal with this and maintain that all important access to the scheme.

Many GP federations or other corporate bodies do have employing authority status through different contracts and in particular the APMS extended access contract. If the Federation also qualifies as a Classic APMS contract holder as opposed to an Independent Provider (IP) APMS contract holder that then allows all employees automatic access.

Loss of APMS extended hours contract

From 1 October 2022, however, a new Enhanced Access DES will be introduced with the intention of amalgamating the existing extended hours DES and the CCG commissioned extended access services. The new DES will now sit with PCNs.

This will remove the current APMS extended access contract from many Federations and potentially leave them holding no more NHS contracts.

This will clearly have a major impact on the federation’s funding and several issues may well arise, therefore.

One consequence that this change could cause is a serious issue for staff employed in these federations as potentially they would lose their right to be a member of the NHS Pension scheme.

However, where the federation continues to oversee the PCN then there is still a route available for the staff. The company or federation must now apply to the NHSBSA’s Scheme Access Team for temporary Direction/Determination status. This access is currently only available until March 2023, but the situation is under review and expected to be extended or amended to allow access to the Pension scheme to continue. This type of access is available only for staff employed for PCN activities carried out on behalf of the PCN member practices.

Status with other contracts

Where the company or federation continues to hold any other APMS contract then NHS Pension Scheme access will continue to be allowed for the staff employed to work on that contract if the organisation is an IP or for all staff if the organisation has Classic APMS status.

Where the company or federation continues to only hold an NHS standard contract, the company or federation will have to apply for temporary direction/determination status for staff employed for PCN activities. This is because the employees of the PCN will not be working more than 50% of their time on the standard contract, they will be working on the network DES. Staff employed on the NHS Standard contract will continue to retain their existing scheme access.

Applying for temporary direction/determination status

NHSBSA has published a guide for businesses wishing to apply for a direction / determination employing authority status and the link is here:

The advice though is to contact the Scheme Access Team in the first place who should be able to assist you in making your application.

If you are transferring staff who are already in the NHS Pension scheme, then you may need to apply for a closed direction / determination authority.

When new members of staff are added then an open direction / determination authority will be required.

The application form itself is an excel form and can be found on the NHSBSA website:

Useful summary of NHS Pension Scheme access for PCNs can be found on the NHSBSA website. Link here:

The scheme access team can be contacted as follows:

[email protected]

NHS Pensions address is:

Scheme Access Team, NHS Pensions,
PO Box 2269, Bolton. BL6 9LS
Telephone Number 01253 979600

Get in touch

For any further help or guidance with any issue around the NHS Pension Scheme then please contact your local MHA healthcare team by using our online enquiry form

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