UK - Staff and employers at the National Health Service are being asked to comment on proposed changes to the NHS pension scheme arrangements for England and Wales.

One of the ideas is a "brand new scheme" for new staff". The proposals were jointly unveiled by NHS Employers and healthcare trade unions.

The proposals would retain a pension age of 60 for existing members of the NHS Pension Scheme and retain a final salary pension for both existing and new staff.

A new contribution rate system will be introduced that will have lower contributions for the lowest paid and higher contribution rates for the highest paid. Employer contribution rates will be capped at current levels.

"Today marks the culmination of a three year process in which we have worked closely with trade unions to design a modern NHS pension scheme fit for today's NHS that is both sustainable and affordable," said David Jordison, chair of the NHS Employers pensions negotiating team.

"We have listened carefully to what staff and employers have told us, and that is why we are proposing both the existing and the new scheme are final salary for all staff apart from GPs, who are already on a career average scheme.

"We are proposing improvements to the existing scheme, in terms of benefits for surviving partners and increased flexibility in lump sum payouts.

"We have also designed a brand new scheme for new staff, and those existing staff who wish to transfer, that allows members much more control over how they save for their retirement and when, and how, they retire.  At the same time, we have been careful to ensure that the proposals don't cost the NHS more."

"At the start of this process back in 2003 the health unions objectives were to see existing staff's normal pension age of 60 honoured and to maintain the principal of a final salary pension for all who work in the NHS," added Eddie Saville of the Society for Chiropodists and Podiatrists who negotiated for staff.

But the changes were not universally welcomed.

"Increasing staff contributions is a step in the right direction but the settlement falls short of what's needed to tackle the looming crisis in long-term public sector pension provision," said the Confederation of British Industry, an employer group.

"No one should be under the impression that these modest changes will prevent the NHS pensions bill rocketing for taxpayers.

"When the public sector pension deficit already stands at £960bn, keeping defined benefit schemes for new entrants, without meaningful reforms to keep them affordable, is simply adding to the difficulties which lie ahead."