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Pensions win for prison dentists

Blog Author Nilesh Patel

Blog Date 03/02/2021

Nilesh Patel describes how our five-year campaign secured access to NHS pensions for prison dentists and how they can apply for it retrospectively.


Prison corridor


We are delighted that the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) has confirmed that prison dentists can now access the NHS pensions scheme. Prison dentists had previously been denied this in error. After years of campaigning, I’m proud to say that if you worked as a prison dentist and were denied access to the pension scheme, you can now retrospectively access this benefit.


What this means for you

Prison dentists can now access the NHS pensions scheme, whether they are working in a prison at present or have done so in the past, even if they have since retired. To get retrospective access, you will need to register your interest in making a claim with the NHS Business Services Authority by filling out this form and sending it to: nhsbsa.retrospectivemembership@nhs.net.


“Claiming this money may lead you to exceed your Annual Allowance.”

Once you have done that, they will contact you. You will need to provide proof of earnings over the relevant years. You will also need to pay backdated pension contributions, based on the earnings for the relevant years. You should calculate what these might be and speak to your accountant prior to application.


It is also possible that claiming this money may lead you to exceed your Annual Allowance (AA). This is especially true if you have exceeded the AA in previous years or your AA threshold has been tapered due to high earnings. Our FAQs  will provide you with further information. You will need to be a member or join up today to access them. BDA members can also reach out to our team for guidance at: prisonpensions@bda.org.


Winning the argument for prison dentists

It seems that mismanagement and misunderstanding were at the root of the problem. After the creation of NHS England, prison dentistry commissioning was made the responsibility of the Health and Justice team. This team had no background in dentistry and used NHS standard contracts in commissioning, rather than GDS or PDS contracts. This led to prison dentists being wrongly excluded from the NHS pensions scheme.


“I’m so proud that prison dentists finally have a way of resolving this issue.”

When we identified this issue in 2015, we raised it with various teams across NHS Dental and NHS Health and Justice. We explained the unique position dentists have within the NHS, and that they had been denied benefits they were legally entitled to. Progress was slow, but we persisted. Legal advice was sought and by 2018, NHS representatives agreed that a mistake had been made and they admitted liability.


This was a huge relief! After the hours I’d spent on the phone and in meetings making the case for prison dentists, I was delighted. Next, NHS England secured funding and plans were put in place for prison dentists to be retroactively included in the NHS pensions scheme. Then earlier this year, COVID-19 delayed this situation still further, but I’m so proud that prison dentists finally have a way of resolving this issue.


Together we are stronger

Prison dentists work in very challenging circumstances. They do vital work for a population with poor oral health and their work deserves recognition. Being granted access to the NHS pensions scheme is a step in the right direction. Without our persistent campaigning, I don’t believe this would have happened and so I’m proud of what we’ve achieved for prison dentists here.


It’s only by working together and speaking up for dentists with one voice that real change and progress can be made. I invite you to join the BDA today and stand with us as we campaign for dentists and dentistry.


Nilesh Patel

BDA General Dental Practice committee member

Lead negotiator on prison dentist pension access