The British Medical Association has written to chancellor Philip Hammond that doctors will start to reduce their working hours unless reforms are made to the NHS pension scheme.
In the latest of several letters to the Hammond, the BMA says current pension and tax rules are creating a “perfect storm” in the NHS workforce.
It says existing tax and pension regulations may drive out some of the most skilled and experienced clinicians in the health service.
This is because pension regulations are forcing senior consultants to reduce their hours, retire early or leave the health service to avoid disproportionately large additional tax charges.
It adds all of this has serious consequences for patient care and a damaging knock-on effect to the future sustainability of the NHS.
BMA chair of the consultant committee Dr Rob Harwood says: “It cannot be right that doctors working extra hours to reduce waiting lists or cover rota gaps are then hit with additional tax bills greater than the value of the extra hours worked.
“Given the refusal of both the government and NHS employers to take steps to rectify or mitigate this, it is now our responsibility to inform our members that current regulations, particularly the annual allowance and tapered annual allowance, are disproportionately and unfairly impacting them.
“Unless action is taken, our only option is to reduce the amount of time we work for the NHS, which will through no fault of our own, be detrimental to our patients and to the country’s health service – exactly what the BMA has been trying to avoid.”
Reacting to the letter Quilter pensions expert Ian Browne says: “Most schemes and employers have the flexibility to opt out and use other tax advantaged savings vehicles once the pension is maxed out. This allows people to plan their affairs properly with the help of an adviser.
“But in the case of the NHS scheme, reducing contributions isn’t possible so employees are locked in to a tax charge unless they stop accruing money, which means stopping working.
“That cannot be the right outcome for anyone, least of all the staff and patients of the NHS. When a complex area of savings taxation is impacting on vital frontline services, something has gone badly wrong.”