Hospital Dr News

NHS starting to feel the effects of the NHS pensions taxation crisis

Evidence is growing that hospitals are suffering from the perverse pensions taxation being placed on consultants, with surgical waiting lists growing and more frequent rota gaps.

Changes to pension rules in 2016 mean rising numbers of NHS consultants are receiving large bills linked to the value of their pension.

Some are having to remortgage their homes to pay unexpected bills of up to £50,000 and more. A key response by many has been to reduce their working hours, while others are considering early retirement.

Waiting times for treatment, already the worst on record, are worsening as hospitals struggle to find senior doctors prepared to work more than their planned shifts, which could lead to them receiving a pension tax bill of as much as £80,000.

The Guardian reports that the Royal Bournemouth hospital in Dorset may have to cancel scores of operations between now and 27 July because none of its consultant anaesthetists are prepared to help staff the 53 sessions of surgery, involving up to 150 procedures, that are currently uncovered because no one from that speciality has signed up to attend.

The situation has arisen because its anaesthetists fear that by working over and above their usual hours they will end up financially worse off.

At another hospital the number of patients who have been waiting more than the 18-week supposed maximum for a planned operation has risen from 3,000 to 4,500 since April for the same reason.

Dr Rob Harwood, consultant anaesthetist and Chair of the BMA Consultants Committee said: “For the first time, we are seeing hospital trusts publicly admitting there is a problem; hospital chief executives now acknowledging something the BMA has known for months – doctors are being forced to say no.

“No to extra shifts to reduce huge waiting lists, no to covering for staff shortages and no to overtime weekend cover. Not because they want to, but because if they don’t, they face huge bills, created by the ludicrous pensions taxation rules that the Treasury is so far refusing to overhaul.”

“This Government absolutely has to see sense and agree to a major overhaul of pension taxation before patient care is bereft of high skilled experienced doctors and lives are lost.”

Hospitals are also struggling to find enough doctors to fully staff shifts in their A&E or acute medical unit. The resulting gaps in rotas pose a potential threat to the quality and safety of care, NHS leaders say.

Dr Tony Goldstone, a consultant radiologist and clinical director at Hull University teaching hospitals NHS trust, who is also an expert on NHS pensions, commented: “The pensions catastrophe is an existential threat to our NHS. We’re only just beginning to see the impact of these taxes. As more doctors get affected, it’s going to get a lot worse.

“Colleagues who used to help prop up services by working additional weekends, on top of their already onerous working rotas, can no longer afford to do this. I am hearing of operating theatres not being utilised because of the inability to staff them, and rota gaps not being filled as senior staff are unable to help out.”

Hospital doctors are now able to calculate charges they may incur on their pension growth due to damaging Annual Allowance and Tapered Annual Allowance rules. The BMA Goldstone Pensions Modeller is designed to allow consultants to calculate any annual allowance charge that they may incur in future years, how to minimise those charges and determine how to move in and out of the pension scheme.

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