Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss has said she will ‘need to sort out’ the issues with doctor pensions if she becomes the next Prime Minister.
In a leadership debate held last night by Sky News, Ms Truss reassured the audience she would tackle the problems with pensions to stop doctors going into early retirement.
Responding to a question from a hospital consultant about how Ms Truss would solve the understaffing in the NHS, she said: ‘There are also a number of other issues we need to look at, like doctors’ pensions.
‘I’ve met a lot of doctors who’ve gone into retirement because of the specific issues around their pensions – I need to sort that out.’
The pensions taxation rules, in particular around annual and lifetime allowances, push GPs to reduce their hours or retire early to avoid large tax bills.
The lifetime allowance is the maximum amount you can put into a pension pot without triggering an extra tax charge. If a pension pot exceeds the allowance, it is then taxed heavily when you retire.
Ms Truss also said she would encourage GPs who came out of retirement to help during the pandemic to stay as she said we need ‘all hands on deck’.
She said: ‘There are many doctors who very kindly came out of retirement to help during Covid, help with the vaccination programme, help with the real issues we face in our hospitals and what I’d like to do is see what we can do to encourage those people to come back into the profession and really help, because we do face serious issues.’
The potential next Prime Minister expressed a desire to have ‘more decisions made by people on the frontline’.
She said: ‘I really believe that it’s by trusting people on the front line, trusting the professionals more and making the organisation a really great place to work, that we will actually solve these problems together.’
Ms Truss told Sky News presenter Kay Burley: ‘I’d also support our doctors and nurses more by removing some of the central diktats and also having fewer layers of management.
‘What we need is more empowerment, more of the decisions to be made by people on the frontline.’
She added: ‘What I have heard is that there’s been a loss of targets set centrally by the Department of Health and NHS England, and I want things to be decided more locally. So there’s less distance between the people making the decisions and the people actually on the frontline helping the patients.’
Responding to the hospital consultant who asked about the recruitment crisis, Ms Truss said: ‘We also need to listen to people like you who are actually involved in the health service and listen to your advice, because what I’ve heard is lots of areas where we could use our facilities better.
‘I think we can empower people to do things differently and really treat this as a major national programme to deal with the aftermath of Covid.’
She added: ‘We were very successful at dealing with Covid, getting the vaccine, rolling out the vaccine but now we have a major issue with the National Health Service and we need all of the best brains working on it.’
Last month, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee said it is a ‘national scandal’ that GPs are having to work less or leave their jobs altogether due to NHS pension rules.
And yesterday, chair of the committee and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt set out a six-point list of emergency actions to avoid a looming winter crisis, including an ‘immediate exemption’ for doctors from public sector pension rules.