The vast majority of managers responding to a snap online HSJ survey think higher earners should pay more towards their NHS pensions.

The survey of 245 managers followed the publication of last week’s independent public service pensions commission report led by former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Hutton. The report said higher earners were “better positioned” to help combat the risks of maintaining public sector pensions than those on lower salaries.

NHS employees on salaries of £110,274 or more already contribute 8.5 per cent, compared with 5.5 per cent for those earning £21,175 or less. But HSJ’s survey showed 84 per cent thought higher earners should pay even more.

The government said last October that it wanted public sector employees to pay an extra 3 per cent to pensions but has not yet announced how this will be spread across sectors or employees.

Asked whether NHS employees as a whole should pay more towards their pensions, 26 per cent of managers in HSJ’s survey said yes, but 37 per cent thought other public sector workers should pay more.

There are fears that raising contribution levels could encourage many to opt out of pension schemes.

But NHS Employers head of pensions and reward Andrea Hester said this was unlikely as “the vast majority of healthcare professionals join the NHS immediately after graduation” when “pensions don’t factor into career choices” to a large degree.

The Hutton report also recommended replacing the final salary pension scheme with one based on career averages. Only 22 per cent of managers surveyed believed this was necessary.

Overall, 40 per cent said they would “definitely” be tempted to look outside the NHS for jobs if the pension scheme were made less attractive while 34 per cent said they “probably” would.

More than half - 54 per cent - would consider industrial action if the value of their pension was reduced.

The report also called for the “normal pension age” at which public sector workers can draw pensions at the full rate to be linked to the state pension age, which is due to rise to 68 by 2046.

The government is carrying out a separate review into the “discount rate” used to calculate the future value of pension funds and the contributions required. The proposals include reducing the discount rate from 3 per cent above inflation to as little as 0.8 per cent.

Hargreaves Lansdown pensions analyst Laith Khalaf said this would be “a very extreme move and have a large impact on contributions”.