Pension action needed to stop doctors’ exodus, says BMA

The BMA has renewed calls for the Government to act to address punitive tax and pension rules which threaten an increasing exodus of consultants from the NHS as health services face their ‘worst winter on record’.

Fixing the heavy pensions taxation problem is one of a list of measures proposed by the Association in a report, Weathering the Storm, that it says could make a big impact on easing a  crisis over the next few months.

It warns: ‘Existing tax and pensions rules – including the annual and lifetime allowance – have been a major factor in doctors choosing to either retire early or to reduce the number of hours they work.’

The BMA believes a tax unregistered scheme, as introduced for the judges in response to similar recruitment and retention issues, is needed to ensure doctors can work as many hours as possible this winter, without facing major financial disincentives.

‘As an urgent mitigation, employers need to offer the option for doctors and other higher earners within the NHS to be paid the full value of the employer pension contributions if they are left with little option but to opt out of the scheme as a result of pension taxation system,’ it says. 

‘Such “recycling” of employer’s pension contributions is commonplace in the private sector and is cost-neutral to the employer.’ 

Surveys have indicated that 86% of those planning to retire early cite pensions as one of the reasons for their decision.

The BMA says as many as 53% of surgeons in Wales have been advised by an accountant or financial adviser to work fewer hours in the NHS. 

‘At a time when waiting lists are at their highest, health services need as many doctors working as many hours as possible – therefore action is desperately needed to ensure no doctor is penalised for working extra hours and providing further contributions to supporting the NHS.’

BMA chief officer Dr Trevor Pickersgill called for the Government and health service leaders to take decisive steps now and to be ‘honest’ with the public about the pressure health services are under. 

‘To stop services and the already fragile recovery from completely derailing, urgent action must be taken. This report lays out detailed recommendations that should be put into practice, offering health leaders some tangible solutions to address the current crisis before the annual tough winter period starts.’