The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned the Government that the NHS is facing a potential mass exodus after a survey found that a worrying 44% of senior doctors were planning to leave their roles “in some capacity” over the next 12 months.
The survey, which was conducted by the BMA themselves, garnered 7,774 responses and further revealed that a staggering 90% of respondents thought that this year’s consultants’ pay award of 4.5% was either “inadequate” or “completely unacceptable”.
The study polled people between August and September and also found that 38% of the responding consultants said they would either “definitely” or “probably” cut their contracted hours next year, blaming “year-on-year pay erosion” and “unfair” pension taxation.
The BMA’s consultants committee chair Vishal Sharma responded to the survey, saying: “These figures make for extremely grim reading. The NHS is already at breaking point and cannot afford to lose any of its staff, never mind facing the prospect of losing nearly half of its most senior doctors.
“After years of demoralising real-terms pay cuts and chronic staffing shortages, the NHS and its staff are on their knees. The Government must urgently demonstrate that it values the medical workforce by taking steps to restore doctors’ pay. This must include reforming the pay review body which rather than being the independent body it was set up to be is constrained by Government spending limits and direction via remit letters.
“The Government must also urgently address the pension-tax trap that is forcing doctors to reduce their hours and take early retirement to avoid being unfairly taxed on their pensions.”
On the pensions tax, the BMA say they have provided the Government with the solutions required to solve this problem. They have demanded that ministers amend the Finance Act to address inflation and negative pension growth, as well as developing a tax-unregistered scheme for the long term – actions that the Government have already taken to solve recruitment and retention issues in the judiciary.
The BMA say this would provide the senior doctors with the certainty they need to continue to work as long as they desire and without the worry of pension taxation lingering over their head.
The BMA further warned that the average net pay for consultants in England has dropped by almost 35% since 2008/09, all whilst the number of senior doctors taking an early retirement has more than tripled in the same period – the average age that a consultant retired in 2020/21 was just 59.
Vishal Sharma added: “The goodwill of staff upon which the NHS depends has all but dried up. We urge the Government to come to the table and talk to consultants about the changes that are needed before it is too late to stop the drain of doctors from the NHS.”