A temporary plan to alleviate the effects of punitive pension tax charges in Scotland has been cautiously welcomed by the BMA – but it has warned UK-wide action is urgently needed to fix the situation.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman has announced that from 1 December, NHS staff will have the option to have their employer pension contributions paid to them as part of their basic pay – giving eligible staff an alternative to cutting back on their hours.
BMA Scottish consultants committee chair Graeme Eunson said the move should provide some urgent short-term relief to those senior doctors facing harsh pension taxation charges but that much more needs to be done.
‘We have pushed the Scottish Government hard to act within the limited powers it has on this issue,’ he said. ‘Of course, this scheme does not deliver everything we have asked for but it is absolutely a step in the right direction.
‘We would have preferred a much simpler process with broader eligibility and a longer lifespan for the scheme. However, we will keep working with the Scottish Government to try to make the scheme work, as we both have a shared objective of finding a solution to the tax problem so that the impact on patient care can be minimised.’
Dr Eunson said that UK-wide tax reforms were needed before the end of this financial year – and that the BMA would keep pushing for this to happen.
‘Our main message remains the same – that the Treasury must recognise the damage the pensions' tax system is doing to the health service and reform the tax system so that we can just get back to looking after our patients without worrying that going the extra mile is going to cost you tens of thousands in unpredictable pensions' tax.’
Ms Freeman said she had repeatedly called for action on this from the UK Government as the issue is largely reserved to Westminster.
‘Our staff are valued and they should be supported and able to work for our NHS and its patients as long as they wish,’ she said.
Dr Eunson said doctors should check their personal situation and take action. ‘I would urge everyone who is eligible for this scheme, and who feel they would benefit from it, to get their applications in as soon as possible, in order to make the most of what is available to them,’ he added.