Responding to the launch of a Government consultation around changes to NHS pensions arrangements1, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said:
“We need to consider the detail within the consultation but on the face of it, these proposed changes appear to be too little, too late. Although they implement some of the immediate mitigations that the BMA has been calling for, they fall well short of the long-term solution that the NHS desperately needs.
“Doctors will continue to incur sky-high and completely unexpected tax bills, simply by continuing to provide care for patients, care that they desperately need. At a time when staff are facing unprecedented pressure, this is devastating for morale and it’s unsurprising that people are planning to leave in their droves. A recent BMA survey suggested that over 40% of consultants plan to leave the NHS in some capacity over the next 12 months and the situation is just as stark for GPs and other senior doctors.
“The partial retirement option and greater flexibility for recently retired doctors returning to the workforce have potential benefits and in particular will standardise retire and return arrangements - something the BMA has lobbied for. However, this does not directly address the issues caused by the annual or lifetime allowance. These are not just issues for doctors nearing retirement, but they are also increasingly influencing the decisions of mid-career consultants and GPs, for whom partial retirement would not be an option. These doctors will still have to consider reducing the work they do to prevent incurring large punitive tax bills and it is disingenuous of the Government to suggest that this will make any meaningful difference to the huge backlogs in care we are seeing.
“And while attempts to reduce the impact of inflation may have an effect this year, without a change to the Finance Act we will see doctors negatively hit in the coming years. It is essential that the Government addresses the anomaly of negative pension growth which has a disproportionate impact on the public sector, due to unintended consequences of the Public Sector Pension reforms. Unless addressed, this will have a huge detrimental impact on the NHS, particularly if the Government follows through with its threat to impose further sub-inflationary pay awards.
“We have consistently been clear to the Government – including to the Chancellor, who himself recently described the current pensions situation as a ‘national scandal’ - about what needs to change. This is a change to the Finance Act and the establishment of a tax unregistered scheme for senior NHS staff, similar to the one already implemented for judges. In the meantime, the Government must not row back on its commitment to forcing employers to offer the recycling of their pension contribution to staff who leave the pension scheme. This recycling must be for the full amount of the employers’ pension contributions and the Government must not attempt to seek cost savings by withholding a portion of NHS staffs ‘total reward package’.
“We will be considering the consultation in detail and responding in full, but at first sight it looks to have fallen short of what is needed to convince doctors to continue offering their full potential to the NHS when they are needed most.”
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.
- Please contact the Department of Health and Social Care for details of the consultation.