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As doctors in Scotland’s NHS we face many significant challenges as we go about our day to day work.
All the doctors I know are driven by one aim – to deliver the best care we possibly can every single day.
To do that, at a time when the workforce is stretched to its limits, we desperately need a supportive work environment above all else.
That should include providing the necessary incentive and help to regularly go above and beyond the basic requirements of the job, for example to undertake extra paid sessions to deal with waiting lists or cover long term gaps, which I think all of us find we are having to do more and more regularly.
That is why the issue of large and unexpected pension tax bills hitting doctors across Scotland is of such concern.
Personally, I feel this is a massive issue, and there is growing awareness that there's a problem amongst doctors. Indeed, I know that fear of running into a problem with annual allowance pensions tax charges and the associated taper is causing many doctors to consider what work they do, cutting down hours, or even leaving the pension scheme altogether.
But there is an extremely complex interplay of tax and pensions which is causing this problem, so clearly there is a thirst for information, details and answers for individual situations.
That’s why recently, the BMA organised for me to deliver talks on this issue, both at Crosshouse and at Ninewells (which included videolinks to Perth & Aberdeen). Overall, we reached more than 140 doctors spread across these events – but I know we need to do more to get you up to speed – both on the situation and what the BMA is doing.
That’s why I felt it best to put my presentation online in a way that could be easily watched and re-watched – for anyone who wants to find out more.
There are two slide sets, which you can find here and here. The first explains the basics of the NHS pension scheme and the different sections and is applicable to all branches of the profession.
The second explains tax rules (AA, LTA) and gives some worked examples of how a consultant might end up going over those limits.
As well as providing you with information, the BMA has also been vigorously pushing the case for change and a solution. The media coverage so far has been excellent and really highlighted the impact of the issue on both doctors themselves and the NHS as a whole. Have a read of Margaret Taylor’s excellent piece in the Sunday Herald to get a flavour of it.
We’ve also been working with members across Scotland to encourage them to write to MPs & MSPs to get this issue on their agenda. Indeed, you can still do that – and the BMA can provide a template to help you do so – just get in touch at [email protected]
This has already delivered some results – following a letter to Paul Masterton MP, he secured a debate at Westminster. You can watch it back here (starting at 11:00 on the timer) – including several Scottish case studies being raised. And we shouldn’t limit this to MPs – while occupational pensions are a reserved matter, other aspects such as recycling of employer contributions are a Scottish Government responsibility.
I believe this work is having an impact – and we have indications from the Scottish Government at least that they know the issue exists – and are considering their response.
I’m glad some politicians are finally waking up to this issue as if nothing is done it could have a major impact on patient care, as doctors cut their hours or turn down extra shifts.
If you’ve read this far then please take the time to have a look the information at the links above and encourage your colleagues to do the same! For anyone who is worried, please carefully digest the information available to you and work out for yourself the best way forward – perhaps seeking professional advice. In particular, run the numbers through carefully before taking on extra work in case it ends up costing you money. The BMA is working hard to help this process by producing a pensions calculator and I hope we’ll have more information on that shortly.
But the real aim is to tackle this at source – rather than simply help you calculate its impact. We're pursuing a range of things that could help mitigate the problem, including:
However, whilst these mitigations will offer temporary stability, the long-term solutions lie with the Treasury – and the BMA is clear that they must act urgently. We need fundamental pension taxation reform including the scrapping of the tapered annual allowance and a review of how the annual allowance is calculated, particularly for those who are members of more than one NHS pension scheme.
Alan Robertson is a member of BMA Scotland council and the BMA pensions committee
Superb work Alan (and to Goldstone in E Yorks). Thank you.
Read and weep.
The ostriches doing WLI and EPAs are in for a fright.
John Miller in Lothian
Don't be confused between the effects of tax and pensions.
People are getting caught by huge tax bills as they exceed their annual allowance by getting a routine £5k increment alongside discretionary points but they are declining additional sessions once they realise that they are only receiving around 20p in the pound for their additional work due to the loss of their personal allowance.
Via tremendous tax fees as they exceed their annual allowance by using getting a pursuits £5k increment alongside discretionary aspects however they're declining extra classes after they understand that they are only receiving around 20p within the pound for their extra work due to the lack of their private allowance. Essay Help Online