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Pension reforms must be ‘immediate’ under new Government, urges BMA

BMA survey

The Government must bring in ‘immediate’ and ‘fundamental’ pension tax reforms as part of delivering its promises to reduce pressure on the NHS in the general election campaign, the BMA has urged the Government.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the BMA urged the Government, which won a large Conservative majority in last night’s election, to address the ‘unprecedented’ pressure on the NHS.

The BMA council’s chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul stressed the fall in full-time GP numbers and ‘punitive’ pension policies as issues the Conservative party pledged to solve.

Dr Nagpaul said in the letter that while the party’s general practice workforce pledge – to recruit 6,000 new GPs by 2024/25 – reflects the ‘dire’ situation, it does not address the realities of recruitment and the time it takes to train new clinicians.

The Government’s pledge to hold a review of the doctors’ pension taper problem within the next 30 days is ‘not enough’, said Dr Nagpaul.

He requested to meet the Chancellor urgently to discuss ‘fundamental’ and ‘immediate’ tax reform for NHS staff, which would see the removal of the tapered and annual allowance for doctors’ pension pots.

In the letter, the BMA warned the Government must mitigate the ‘threats to the health service’ from the impact of Brexit, particularly a no-deal Brexit, which the union has consistently stressed should be avoided.

In a statement, Dr Nagpaul added: ‘We are absolutely clear that the only way to solve the problem is immediate and fundamental taxation reform.

‘This means removing the taper and annual allowance for defined benefit schemes such as the NHS Pension Scheme, which will work for doctors regardless of whether they are treating families in the NHS, training the next generation of much needed doctors in universities, or supporting our armed forces in the field.

‘Our message to the Government is clear: this must be included in their first budget, and we are requesting an urgent meeting with the Chancellor to discuss this.’

Dr Nagpaul continued: ‘Today is day one for the Government to turn their rhetoric about the NHS delivered on the campaign trail into decisive action that will deliver a health service that’s safe for patients and supportive to staff. We know the NHS is in crisis – hospital bed numbers are at a record low, waiting lists the highest since records began and staff are working in an intolerable climate of stress.’

GPs, meanwhile, are still waiting on details of the interim pension scheme arrangements that will allow the NHS to pay for their deferred pensions tax bills from any shifts worked during this winter.