It was revealed last week that the National Health Service Pension Scheme has made nearly £100m in overpayments since 2012 at a time that the NHS is under increasing financial strain. Philip Dunne, health minister revealed that over 123,000 retired workers from the NHS had been overpaid a total of £92 million between 2012 and 2016-2017. The total value of annual overpayments by the NHS Pension Scheme climbed from £17 million in 2012-2013 to £19 million in 2016-2017, according to the NHS Business Services Authority which administers the NHS Scheme from its department in Fleetwood, Lancashire.
The figures were revealed following a parliamentary question on the matter. In his written response, the health minister said that the vast majority of payments were not down to clerical error but due to changes in people's circumstances that the scheme was not made aware of, rather than clerical errors.
"In a majority of cases an overpayment arises from changes in scheme member circumstances after the initial pension has been awarded," he said in his response. "These are generally beyond the control of the scheme administrator, with a subsequent revision to pension benefits often resulting in an overpayment."
However, whilst Mr Dunne was forthcoming about how much NHS money had been overpaid, he did not go into detail about how much of the overpaid cash had been recovered or written-off, saying that "in principle" public sector organisations should always pursue recovery of overpayments, but in practice "there will be both practical and legal limits to how cases should be handled. So each case should be dealt with on its merits".
He added that the NHS Business Service Authority is attempting to address a number of overpayments that are being made every year.
"The (NHS Business Services) authority is improving its quality assurance processes and investing in additional staff training," he said. "Progress in their quality assurance process improvements is overseen by the NHS Pension Board, a statutory board set up under the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 and responsible for overseeing scheme governance and administration, by the department through service level agreement reviews with the Authority and by the Pensions Regulator through its annual survey of pension scheme governance."