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GP pension tax crisis causes closure of out-of-hours services

Changes to GP pensions have caused the largest health board in Scotland to temporarily close five out-of-hours centres in their area.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) stated they have experienced ‘significant challenges’ as national changes to pensions have left fewer GPs available to work within their out-of-hours services.

High earning medical staff are being forced to reduce shifts to avoid high tax bills on their pension contributions. In January the BMA warned that doctors would continue to reduce their shifts in order to avoid being hit with significant charges.

NHSGGC stated on its website: ‘The changes come following significant challenges caused by national changes to pensions, in addition to local operational issues which have left fewer GPs available to work within out of hours.’

To mitigate against inconsistent and unsustainable care, NHSGGC reported they will concentrate their out-of-hours services into four core centres and suspend services at another five centres.

Dr Kerri Neylon, primary care lead GP at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘Temporary consolidation of services is the only option which will enable us to continue providing this crucial service in the immediate future.

‘We are absolutely committed to delivering a long-term sustainable, safe and reliable out-of-hours service to patients across Greater Glasgow and Clyde.’

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said: ‘More GPs to staff out of hours is obviously a crucial factor here, but there is no doubt a range of complex issues in play, including poor work life balance. Equally – and of vital importance for out-of-hours care – pensions rules that mean unexpected and large tax bills – which are actually forcing many GPs to cut down on their working hours or even retire early, are contributing substantially to issues with out-of-hours care.

‘There are undeniably some challenges to out-of-hours provision by GPs that are specific to Glasgow, but equally few parts of the country are immune to challenges and pressure on these services.’

The Government is looking into solving the crisis, after pressure from the BMA, RCGP and nine other medical bodies. The BMA confirmed it has been invited to talks with the Treasury as part of the Government review.