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Independents' Day

BMA: Government pensions plans are 'worthless' and won't stop GP retirements

The proposed changes to the NHS Pension Scheme are a temporary ‘sticking plaster’ solution that won’t fix the pension tax crisis, the BMA has said in its official response to the Government's proposals. 

A Department of Health and Social Care consultation on greater pension flexibility is a ‘much-needed’ but temporary solution if there is no fundamental tax reform, the union said.

The government admitted last month that the lack of flexibility in the current NHS pension system is giving GPs an incentive to cut their hours or refuse to take on extra shifts in order to avoid pension tax charges.

A survey from the BMA in August found that thousands of GPs and hospital consultants have cut their working hours, with thousands more planning to do so. This has had a ‘catastrophic’ impact on patients and the NHS, it said.

Launched in September, the DHSC consultation proposes that NHS pensions scheme members be given the option to tailor their pension accrual to the level they want with the flexibility of raising or lowering their accrual level late in the scheme year.

In its response to the consultation, the BMA said: 'The BMA does not consider it possible for the perverse implications of pensions taxation legislation to be resolved within a pension scheme. Therefore, any flexibilities introduced after this consultation – even if they are the most appropriate and creative flexibilities possible – will provide little more than a sticking plaster to cover the issue.'

The BMA response said the issue can only be addressed if the annual and tapered annual allowance is scrapped. 

The response said: 'The tapered annual allowance must be removed immediately. We believe that there must be a fairer, more transparent way to raise revenue from pensions taxation and we have consistently said that we would be happy to be a part of that conversation. In addition, we believe that annual allowance is fundamentally unsuited to defined benefit schemes where growth cannot be easily controlled.'

BMA pensions committee chair, Dr Paul Youngs, 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.

‘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.’

‘We urge the Government to get a grip on this issue immediately. As we approach Brexit day and the onset of winter – themselves presenting their own threats to the NHS and its patients – we cannot afford to be without the skills and expertise of our most experienced doctors.’

He added: 'Furthermore, any flexibilities without insisting that employers fully recycle their contributions back to the employee is worthless.'


Readers' comments (11)

  • Th governments current pension proposal is the very definition of an exercise in utter futility.

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  • Endee77, the present government is an exercise in futility.

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  • David Banner

    Hammond flatly and repeatedly refused scrapping the taper and restoring AA and LTA to previous levels, despite the fact that it’s a blindingly obvious and rapid solution to a deepening crisis. Will Javid have the foresight to avoid a Winter of NHS chaos that could scupper his party’s election chances? I wouldn’t bet on it.

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  • As always people make decisions without thoroughly examining the consequences. One of my rules for assessing anything new is to ask "What could possibly go wrong?" Financially, pensions are the last of a long list; failed and expensive reorganisations, PFI... see my book "Mad Medicine" ( out of which I suspect many GPs and others will say "Been there, done that."

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  • Agree the usual sticking plaster mentality to a problem from a government that that is as useful as a chocolate fire guard and a pleasant to deal with as a fart in a space suit.

    Virtually nothing no correction nothing would get me to alter my current plan.

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  • I’m now semi retired and loving my one day week earning the same as I did full time. Many thanks Osborne and Hammond for having given me this wonderful opportunity as, without your invaluable incentives, I would still be working crazy hours. Moreover your 60% tax rate Plus NI over £100k ( threshold never increased) stops me from taking on more work and ensures that, as my pension rises, so my workload decreases.
    There is another fantastic bonus I now enjoy. Any Email communication from the CCG automatically gets the ‘delete buttOn’ treatment whilst I have added the CQC to my junk email ! The joy of this!
    Is this the way to staff and run primary care. When will government get away from their pathological obsession with a single issue and realise there is a country to run and that £375 million extra a week will do nothing for the NHS is senior staff have gone.

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  • It seems they think about what is the minimum possible they can do to appease the complainers rather than thinking it is actually an opportunity to increase the supply of medical advice in a system that is creaking at the seams.

    Just think bigger, how about the nhs pension scheme pays all annual allowance tax for anyone in the nhs pension scheme. Not out of your pot, just pays as part of the contract from central government.

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  • There is no real will to help. The conservatives have lost the plot to actually make hard work pay. Best thing to do is to either emigrate or drop sessions and accept a quieter poorer life.

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  • Chris Nevill

    It is extraordinary that there has been any offer to ‘have a conversation’ !
    When the pension system was realigned the medical profession moved hugely into the BLACK strongly subsidising the civil service and other pension pots - because we die young !!! Scrap the annual allowance without further discussion And allow hard work to have its just rewards. It is after all one of the very few perks that come from 5-6 years of unpaid slog with massive debt at the outset.

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  • why is everyone stressing ? you have three choices

    1 - stop moaning, carry on as you are, and suffer the financial consequences of a treasury edict you cannot change

    2 - reduce your hours to avoid the penalty of 1 above.

    3 - get out altogether, come to locumland where all is wonderful, you can go on holiday when you like, work when you like, no night work, no heavy lifting, set your own pay, refuse to have any dealings with ccg, cqc, pct lhb etc etc etc, and have as much free/family time as you like.

    i did 3 several years ago, and i now ENJOY (seriously) going to work !!

    very nice chatting to you all, but i must go - i'm not working today (tuesday), and i have a 1939 wolseley 10 that i am in the middle of restoring !

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