The UK’s Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has established a master trust committee to promote and defend the master trust model of pension provision to government and regulators.The announcement of the committee’s creation comes shortly before a pensions bill is expected to be laid before Parliament, with the government having indicated that it will introduce stricter regulation of master trusts, something for which the UK pensions regulator has been arguing. Opening the PLSA’s annual conference in Liverpool today, Lesley Williams, chair of the association, said that, although master trusts have been around for decades, there are “new breeds” taking on millions of new auto-enrolment savers, and that master trusts had become a bigger part of the pension market than many would have imagined.Regulation will have to adapt to cope with the risks and benefits of master trusts, she said, noting that the pension providers would help shape the agenda of the 2017 review of auto-enrolment. Chris Hitchen, chief executive at RPMI Railpen, will chair the Master Trust Committee, while Emma Douglas, head of defined contribution at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), was voted vice-chair by the other members of the new committee.Comprising 13* senior executives in total, the committee will set the PLSA’s strategic direction on master trust policy, promote and support the development of the master trust market, and help savers in master trusts achieve a better income in retirement.Joanne Segars, chief executive of the PLSA, said a “top priority” for the association was to represent the entire workplace pension “community”.“Master trusts are a major force in today’s pensions landscape, counting many millions of the newly enrolled pension savers as their members,” she said.“As they grow in scale and in number, they face a growing number of complex issues – many of them unique to master trusts.“Our new Master Trust Committee will ensure there is a dedicated voice for master trusts to government and regulators.”She said the committee would advocate for master trusts “as a model of strongly governed and value-for-money schemes” and help to develop a strategic and pro-active policy framework. Hitchen said master trusts had played a key role in the success of auto-enrolment, especially among smaller businesses.“With the government’s plan to regulate master trusts within the Pensions Bill, the PLSA’s Master Trust Committee will relay the message that master trusts embrace high standards and wants to ensure the regulation and legislation governing master trusts continues to benefit savers,” he said.The Committee will meet four times a year and may on occasion hold a joint meeting with the PLSA’s defined contribution council and/or defined benefit council. Walk the talkIn other news, the PLSA is to carry out a comprehensive review of the organisation’s governance to ensure it supports the PLSA’s work on behalf of its members and all stakeholders, operates effectively and attracts the right people.Announcing the review at the association’s annual conference in Liverpool today, Williams said: “We have to make sure we walk the talk of 21st-century governance.”Last year, the association announced it was reinventing itself to capture changes in the way people save for retirement.Williams said “great progress” had been made but that “there is more to do”.The review will start immediately and run until October 2017.The board will consult with members on any potential proposals in the New Year. *The other members of the master trust committee are Ken Anderson, head of DC solutions at Xafinity; Helen Dean, chief executive of NEST; Tony Filbin, chair of BlueSky; Jamie Fiveash, chair, PLSA DC MES Forum; Patrick Heath-Lay, CEO of The People’s Pension; Bruce Kirton, CEO of Welplan; Fiona Matthews, CEO of Lifesight; Elspeth McKinnon, CEO, Cheviot Trust; Gary Smith, chair, Atlas; Michael Ramsey, CEO of The Pensions Trust; and Andy Waring, CEO of Ensign.
When astronauts suddenly experience a medical situation on the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth, the terms “emergency room” or “urgent care” take on a unique meaning.Late last year, NASA researchers suspected that one of their astronauts was suffering from a blood clot during a long duration stay on the space station.The clot was detected during a vascular study of 11 astronauts that was intended to assess the effect of space on the internal jugular vein. In zero gravity, astronauts’ blood and tissue fluid shifts toward the head.The study involved nine men and two women who were an average age of 46. Their identities were not included in the study.A new assessment of the blood clot was published last Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.Six of the participating astronauts experienced stagnant or reverse blood flow, another one had a blood clot, and yet another was considered to have a potential partial blood clot.Scientists weighed the risk of the blood clot, as well as its potential to block a vessel in the absence of gravity.Dr. Stephen Moll, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine, was the only non-NASA physician who was consulted to help the affected astronaut.He says, “My first reaction when NASA reached out to me was to ask if I could visit the International Space Station to examine the patient myself. NASA told me they couldn’t get me up to space quickly enough, so I proceeded with the evaluation and treatment process from here in Chapel Hill.”Moll is a member of UNC’s Blood Research Center and is a blood clot expert.“Normally the protocol for treating a patient with deep vein thrombosis would be to start them on blood thinners for at least three months to prevent the clot from getting bigger and to lessen the harm it could cause if it moved to a different part of the body such as the lungs,” Moll adds. “There is some risk when taking blood thinners that if an injury occurs, it could cause internal bleeding that is difficult to stop. In either case, emergency medical attention could be needed. Knowing there are no emergency rooms in space, we had to weigh our options very carefully.”He spoke with the astronaut during a “phone call from space,” consulting with them as if the person were one of his other patients.The pharmacy aboard the space station contained 20 vials with 300 milligrams each of an injectable blood thinner. Moll directed the astronaut to use them on a daily basis until an anticoagulant drug could be sent to the station during a resupply mission.The astronaut took a higher dose of the injectable, called enoxaparin, for 33 days in order to control the risk of the blood clot. The dose was lowered after that time, as the astronaut awaited the arrival of the drug apixaban.The researchers watched the clot shrink over time. Blood flow was then induced after 47 days through the vein, although spontaneous blood flow was not achieved, even after undergoing treatment for 90 days.The blood clot disappeared 24 hours after landing. Six months later, the astronaut was still free of symptoms.According to Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor, study author, NASA astronaut and clinical associate professor of medicine at Louisiana State University’s Health New Orleans School of Medicine, “We still haven’t learned everything about Aerospace Medicine or Space Physiology.”She adds, “The biggest question that remains is how would we deal with this on an exploration class mission to Mars? How would we prepare ourselves medically? More research must be performed to further elucidate clot formation in this environment and possible countermeasures.”