Hospital Dr News

Senior Emergency Medicine Staff consider cutting hours over NHS pension rules

A&E consultants are considering cutting their clinical commitments because of the new NHS pension tax rules.

This is despite the approaching surge in demand in Emergency Departments as winter approaches.

A survey by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine shows that 77% of respondents want to cut down on their clinical commitments.

RCEM president Katherine Henderson said: “The number of doctors who have told us they have, or are, considering reducing their hours is really worrying for NHS patients, particularly going into what will likely be another tough winter.”

The survey finds:

  • Only 2% of respondents found the current pension tax arrangements easy to understand;
  • Four out of five respondents did not feel knowledgeable enough to answer the Department of Health and Social Care’s questions in the pension consultation;
  • Just over half (51%) said they had been directly affected by the pension tax rules;
  • Nearly half (48%) were unsure whether they would bring their retirement plans forward, although the rest said they would not; and
  • Almost all (98%) believed the pension tax rules would have a detrimental effect on patient safety.

Dr Simon Walsh, BMA consultants committee emergency care lead, said: “This survey once again lays bare the disastrous impact these absurd pension regulations are having on the NHS workforce and on the care of many thousands of patients.

“We are glad that our colleagues in the Royal College are joining with the BMA’s calls to scrap the tapered annual allowance, so that doctors are not penalised for taking on additional work that is so crucial for safe patient care.

“The NHS now has year-round pressures, but with the winter months fast approaching, these punitive pension rules risk plunging the entire system into an even deeper crisis at a time when services are already stretched to their limits.”

The survey – which received 500 responses – was carried out in the summer, before the latest proposals put forward by the government to revise the rules from April next year.

But Dr Henderson warned that despite the latest intervention, emergency medics would cut their hours.

The DHSC’s latest proposals include allowing consultants, GPs and senior nurses to customise their pension growth level at the start of each tax year and pay correspondingly lower contributions.

The annual allowance taper, which was introduced in April 2016, lowers the amount of pensions tax relief available to those with a threshold income over £110,000, gradually reducing it from £40,000 to £10,000.

It has left many senior doctors paying hefty additional tax bills.

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