Responding to the article in The Times and the letter from NHSEI laying out suggestions to hospital trusts on how they can tackle the backlog in elective care, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said:
“We recognise that it will be extremely challenging to provide care to the large numbers of patients who had theirs delayed by the pandemic. Doctors and healthcare professionals will do all that they can to ensure that patients receive the care that they need but the fact is that there simply aren’t enough doctors. What’s worse is that the doctors we have are exhausted, burned out and demoralised. They gave their all during the pandemic and are now facing the secondary challenge of tackling the enormous waiting lists.
“This letter to NHS trusts in England does make some helpful suggestions, many of which the BMA has previously called for. It is particularly important that time to support professional activities should be protected so that consultants can lead service improvements, and support education and training. The recognition that doctors who are either approaching retirement age or have recently retired should be supported to remain in the workforce by allowing them working to work differently and more flexibly in the later stages of their career is welcome and long overdue.
“However, it is extremely disappointing that this letter fails to mitigate the punitive pension taxation that we know is driving experienced and much needed doctors away in their droves.
"NHSEI continues to reference the pension support and information that it is providing to the NHS workforce, despite the BMA repeatedly highlighting that the information it has been publishing on its website is misleading and inaccurate. In an example on its website, rather than receiving a higher pension by staying for an extra year and continuing to contribute towards their pension, a consultant would instead be tens of thousands of pounds worse off over the course of their retirement.
"Today we have written to NHSEI again to ask it to correct the information on its website, and, as well as ensuring the information it provides to NHS staff is accurate, it must take meaningful steps to fix the problem. These include immediately mandating the recycling of the full value of employers’ pension contributions for affected staff and supporting the BMA’s call for a tax unregistered pension scheme, similar to the one the Government introduced for the judiciary.
“The pandemic has laid bare the fact that we do not have enough doctors and to ensure that we can not only overcome the huge pressures we now face but to ensure we are better equipped to deal with future pandemics, the Government must commit to appropriately increasing the size of the workforce. The forthcoming Government-commissioned workforce strategy must lay out a clear plan to achieve this, including regular assessments and projections of future needs, rather than try to simply put pressure on the exhausted medical teams we have to do more.”
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.