Pensions freeze triggers doctor exodus fears

by Peter Blackburn

The chancellor has imposed an ‘unfair tax’ on doctors – and a BMA survey reveals many now plan to leave the NHS before their expected retirement.

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 4 March 2021
pension form

Announcing his 2021 budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined the freezing of the lifetime allowance for pensions – in a move that will disproportionately affect doctors.

It comes as a new BMA survey, responded to by more than 7,000 doctors, reveals that 72 per cent of doctors would be likely to leave the NHS earlier and 61 per cent would be likely to work fewer hours or part time if the freezing of the lifetime allowance was put in place. 

Perfect storm

BMA pensions committee chair Vishal Sharma (pictured) said: ‘Freezing the pension lifetime allowance is a bad decision and is creating the perfect storm – forcing an exhausted workforce – many of which are already planning to work fewer hours – to make some very tough decisions such as working less hours or leaving the NHS long before they would naturally retire.

'If they don’t, they will face huge pension taxation bills because the NHS pension scheme is not flexible enough to allow doctors to vary and manage their contributions. They simply cannot keep working and face huge pension tax bills as a result.’

Dr Sharma added: ‘The potentially disastrous impact of this on the NHS and patient care is unthinkable, especially at the current time when the impact of COVID-19 and the backlog of patient care is so acutely felt.

‘Today’s move by the chancellor is nothing short of a punitive tax on our hardworking doctors and it is simply unacceptable. The BMA has repeatedly called on the Government to find a way of mitigating against large pension taxation bills for doctors to avoid them having to leave the NHS and deprive our health services of thousands of hours of skilled care.

'Only last week, the Government announced a solution to this problem for judges, the BMA is calling for them to do the same for doctors with almost half of doctors saying they would retire later and work more hours if this was introduced.’

The chancellor’s budget speech did not announce any new funding for the health service. There were no announcements on social care or public sector pay.