Responding to Health Secretary Steve Barclay's “Preparing for Winter” speech at Policy Exchange, Dr Emma Runswick, BMA deputy chair of council, said:
“The next Prime Minister must give the NHS the support it needs by making the retention of dedicated and hardworking NHS staff its top priority. The NHS is already facing a precarious future due to chronic under-funding and a backlog of patient care that will take years to clear. The health service now has a staggering number of vacancies – with more than 130,000 vacancies in the NHS in England alone – a rise of nearly 25% over the last quarter. Without sufficient numbers of skilled and experienced healthcare staff, the NHS has no chance of clearing the growing NHS backlog, leading to poorer patient care and lengthier waiting lists.
“The BMA has warned that years of pay erosion and punitive pension taxation rules are resulting in doctors haemorrhaging from the NHS. Doctors are leaving the profession to better paid roles abroad, moving into other careers, reducing their hours and retiring early to avoid huge tax bills on their pensions. The Health Secretary recognises that the poor retention of doctors is a dreadful waste of resources but the Government still lacks concrete proposals to retain them. That the Government has only offered junior doctors in England a 2% 'uplift' this year, despite the damage wrought by the pandemic and sky-high inflation, is simply unconscionable. The Government must accept that the so-called 'independent' Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body is not fit for purpose and must come to the table to restore doctors' pay.
“While it's a welcome development that the Government has recently launched a consultation into extending the suspension to certain 'retire and return' restrictions for some NHS staff, this doesn’t go nearly far enough to stem the exodus of doctors leaving due to other pensions tax charges. To stop an avalanche of retirements this year, the Government needs to make urgent changes to the Finance Act to fix issues caused by sky-high inflation, and as a long-term solution introduce a tax unregistered pension scheme for senior NHS staff.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.