The government’s new pension tax rules have created a “medical staffing crisis” in the NHS, according to some doctor’s boards.
Under new rules brought in by the government, senior doctors have been hit with large tax bills running into tens of thousands of pounds, leading some to leave or retire early, creating a lack of doctors in some areas.
Across the NHS, hospital bosses have been reporting senior doctors being unwilling to work extra hours meaning some operations have been unable to go ahead and patients have experienced longer waiting periods, prompting more fears of a winter crisis across the NHS.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has been forced to agree emergency measures to pay senior doctors more money to offset the costs of the tax bills.
Essentially, Hancock has granted permission to offset the costs and money they have lost through pension rules brought in by ex-chancellor, George Osborne in 2016.
However, the new measure will only last until the end of the current financial year and will not apply to non-clinical senior managers.
This offsetting of cost has been welcomed by Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health who said: “We welcome this news and we’re pleased that the NHS has listened to voices from across the medical community. This short-term solution allows us some breathing space, which is exactly what we need as we face a tough winter.”
However, he noted: “It’s for one year only – and we strongly encourage any incoming government to prioritise a lasting and sustainable solution to this avoidable problem.”
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents medical specialities in the NHS, added: “Concrete examples of doctors reducing their hours, not taking on extra commitments or retiring early because of punitive tax arrangements are growing daily. It seems highly likely that this capacity will be lost on a permanent basis. Thus, the benefits of increases in medical student numbers are being wiped out by the current loss of capacity.”
“During this election period we call on all political parties to pledge their support for full and urgent action by the next government to swiftly and fully address the taxation problem in relation to NHS pensions to provide a sustainable solution.”