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Budget freezes GP pension lifetime allowance and allocates money for Covid vaccines

scheme pays pension deadline

The Government has frozen the lifetime allowance for GP pensions until at least 2025/26 in today’s budget statement.

Ahead of the announcement, the BMA had warned that such a move, which is designed to raise more tax, could lead to a ‘catastrophic exacerbation’ of NHS workforce shortages.

Today’s statement also confirmed that the vaccination programme is to get a £1.65bn funding boost.

However, the BMA and RCGP’s calls on the chancellor to include urgent Covid funding for general practice in the budget went unheard.

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.

If it is taken as income, it will incur an extra 25% charge, and if taken as a lump sum, then it will be 55%.

The budget document said: ‘The inheritance tax thresholds, the pensions Lifetime Allowance and the Annual Exempt Amount for Capital Gains Tax will be maintained at their existing levels until April 2026.’

It specified that this means it will be maintained ‘at £1,073,100 up to and including 2025/26’.

The BMA had warned this change could lead to doctors reducing their hours or retiring early, which would exacerbate pressures on an already stretched workforce.

Today, BMA pensions committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said: ‘Freezing the pension lifetime allowance is a bad decision and is creating the perfect storm – forcing an exhausted workforce – many of which are already planning to work fewer hours – to make some very tough decisions such as working less hours or leaving the NHS long before they would naturally retire.’

A pre-emptive BMA member survey showed 72% of doctors were likely to retire early as a result of such a freeze.

And Parminder Gill, an adviser at Wesleyan Group, said it would come as ‘a real kick in the teeth to high-earning clinicians who will have been working around the clock on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic’.

He added: ‘These are individuals who have historically been at risk of breaching their allowances and being stung by punitive tax charges. The constant tinkering with the lifetime allowance makes it difficult for doctors to plan for the long-term and could ultimately discourage them from saving into a pension.’

Regarding the vaccination programme, the budget document said: ‘The Government is allocating £1.65bn for 2021/22 to continue the vaccine deployment programme in England, and the devolved administrations are receiving additional funding through the Barnett formula in the usual way.’

It also allocated:

  • ‘£5m on top of £9m funding to help create a “library” of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19 variants for possible rapid response deployment, and £28m to boost the UK’s vaccine testing capacity’.
  • As well as £22m ‘for new and expanded vaccine studies’.

‘This will fund the expansion of the world’s first trial of combining different vaccines as part of a two-dose regime’, the document said, as well as ‘the world’s first study assessing the effectiveness of a third dose of vaccine to improve the response against current and future variants of Covid-19’, the document said.

Regarding the future outlook for the UK economy, the budget hailed the ‘success of the UK’s vaccine programme’ which it said meant the Government ‘has been able to chart a course out of lockdown and will begin to cautiously ease restrictions in a way that will facilitate economic activity, while continuing to protect public health and NHS capacity.’


Not Arvind Madan 3 March, 2021 3:12 pm

Thanks to the GP glitterati for patting themselves on the back while doing this. Their ‘carrying on regardless’ has reinforced HMGs belief that we will keep on vaccinating at a loss. No thanks. Let Serco do it

Michael Mullineux 3 March, 2021 3:34 pm

Tax free lump sum tinkering next up?

terry sullivan 3 March, 2021 3:52 pm

lta does not apply to mps pension scheme

terry sullivan 3 March, 2021 3:53 pm

behve as servants–get treated as servants?

Dave Haddock 3 March, 2021 4:19 pm

BMA seem a bit confused, again. First demanding lockdown seemingly forever with the inevitable consequences for the economy, then complaining about having less money and being poorer. Where do they think the money comes from?

A non 3 March, 2021 6:16 pm

I think the ‘work force crisis’ is about more than just the ‘unlucky few’ with too much money in their pension pot. Excuse me for not giving a shit

Chris GP 3 March, 2021 6:43 pm

….until you can’t see a doctor…because there aren’t many doctors because they have all taken early retirement. Honestly – it’s me that couldn’t give a sh1t. I am off at 55. TBH I am relieved he didn’t increase it – having a reason to stay would’ve been tricky.

A non 4 March, 2021 9:01 am

I’m sure you will be sorely missed Chris. Please enjoy your comfortable retirement. Not wishing to burst your bubble but the ‘work force crisis’ in General Practice is about more than the well fair of financially comfortable older Drs a few years from the wnd of their career. There are many mid career GPs that have left, or are leaving too..many of whom will never accumulate the kind pension ‘burden’ you are being forced to deal with. I don’t read any articles discussing the state of their pension pots, we only ever hear about you guys. If they’re looking for ways to fix the workforce issue I’m pretty confident there are other priorities than ensuring million pound pensioners get to squeeze a little more in there . This pension issue is not specific to Drs by the way – it covers everyone. Covid has trashed the country’s finances. That isn’t very fair either. Thanks for doing what you’ve done, take it easy, you deserve it, I’m glad you wont be forced to struggle financially but there are others who will…this is about them, not you.

David Bush 4 March, 2021 9:07 am

I suspect the agenda here is to encourage senior clinicians to leave the NHS pension scheme – this will save HMG a great deal more money than a few tax tweaks.

Chris GP 4 March, 2021 11:48 am

“the ‘work force crisis’ in General Practice is about more than the well fair of financially comfortable older Drs a few years from the wnd of their career.” – exactly – which is why “having a reason to stay” would be “tricky”. 🙂

Chris GP 4 March, 2021 12:34 pm

“I suspect the agenda here is to encourage senior clinicians to leave the NHS pension scheme – this will save HMG a great deal more money than a few tax tweaks.” – actually I think it is all those senior clinicians paying in vast sums that props the rest of the scheme up……

David Jarvis 4 March, 2021 5:05 pm

I suspect that if you are working as a GP you will comfortably exceed the lifetime allowance before your state retirement age. So it is an issue for young as well as old. It is also a tax very few will pay as you can stop contributing and reinvest the money elsewhere to ease your retirement. As a GP partner you get to keep your employers money as well and I suspect that withdrawal of this will more than offset no gains in tax. If enough older GP’s go early it may lead to changes that benefit you youngsters.

Turn out The lights 4 March, 2021 9:22 pm

The exodus to sunny shores will continue.

Ravi Sastry 10 March, 2021 12:44 am

David Jarvis @9.22pm.
Can you clarify what you mean “As a GP partner you get to keep your employers money as well”. Do you mean employers pension contribution? I thought it was only employee pension contribution that will come to you. Many thanks.