Hospital Dr News

Pension flexibilities are “sticking plaster” that won’t stop doctors reducing hours

Proposed flexibilities to the NHS Pension Scheme are a “sticking plaster” solution that won’t solve the current pension crisis, which is forcing senior doctors to turn down work or consider retiring early.

That’s the view of the BMA, which published its response to the Government’s consultation on pension flexibilities, launched last month.

The union says that the proposed changes are a much-needed but temporary mitigation against the present issue.

Only fundamental tax reform will solve the problem, it says.

The changes to pension legislation introduced in 2016 mean that doctors are finding themselves facing large and often unexpected bills relating to their pension ‘taper’.

A BMA survey published in August found that thousands of GPs and hospital consultants have reduced their working hours, and thousands more are planning to cut back because of the changes.

The Government’s consultation proposes that staff staff and employers will be able to reduce the amount they pay into their pension pots.

The BMA says these flexibilities can only be supported as a temporary fix if the employer’s contribution is “fully recycled” back to the doctor – i.e. if an employer is only paying 20% of their usual contribution into a doctor’s pension, they should pay the remaining 80% back to the doctor as part of their salary.

Without compulsory recycling, any flexibilities represent a real-terms pay cut, the BMA says.

Dr Paul Youngs, BMA pensions committee chair, said: “These perverse rules have for too long meant that doctors are being forced to turn down vital extra shifts caring for patients in our under-pressure hospitals and GP surgeries because they would be literally paying to go to work.

“Doctors are trapped in a dilemma between wanting to care for patients and not wanting to end up financially worse off.

“While the proposals in this consultation from the DHSC offer short-term mitigations, they are merely a sticking plaster that fail to address the crux of the problem. Only by scrapping the damaging Annual and Tapered Annual Allowance will the Government stem the flow of doctors refusing additional work or considering leaving the profession over the issue. This lies with the Treasury.”

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