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26.04.19

‘Punitive’ tax and pension rules forcing senior doctors to reduce hours or work part-time, warns BMA

The BMA has warned of a “perfect storm” created by NHS pension and tax rules which are forcing senior doctors to reduce their hours, retire early or leave the NHS.

In a letter to the chancellor Philip Hammond, the BMA has warned that doctors will keep reducing their working hours to avoid disproportionately large tax charges unless there is tangible reform to the NHS pension scheme.

The letter describes how existing tax and pension regulations may drive some of the most skilled and -experienced clinicians in the health service with “serious consequences for patient care and a damaging knock-on effect to the future sustainability of the NHS.”

The doctor’s union calculates that a senior doctor working a three-and-a-half-day week could end up with an annual pension of £65,000, whilst this would drop to £55,000 if they continued to work a full week.

Rob Harwood, BMA consultant committee chair, said: “It cannot be right that doctors working extra hours to reduce waiting lists or cover rota gaps are then hit with additional tax bills greater than the value of the extra hours worked.

“Given the refusal of both the government and NHS employers to take steps to rectify or mitigate this, it is now our responsibility to inform our members that current regulations, particularly the Annual Allowance and Tapered Annual Allowance, are disproportionately and unfairly impacting them.

“Unless action is taken, our only option is to reduce the amount of time we work for the NHS, which will through no fault of our own, be detrimental to our patients and to the country’s health service – exactly what the BMA has been trying to avoid.”

The BMA said it has written to the chancellor of exchequer several times on the matter, and was disappointed by the lack of action by the government or acknowledgement of the urgent issues.

BMA members have also sent over 1,600 letters to MPs about the inequity of current pension rules, and the union said that Hammond’s lack of response left them with no choice but to publish the letter.

Harwood added that the government’s window of opportunity is closing fast, and stressed that there needs to be a “fundamental review of current pensions taxation regulation.”

“While we understand that this is unlikely to happen quickly, we remain deeply concerned that once this information is more widely known, there will be a massive loss of capacity within the NHS.”

Image credit - PeopleImages

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