The impact of rule changes in 2016 means that many NHS doctors and nurses have been hit with large unexpected tax bills. As many quit working the extra hours that have tipped them over the tax threshold, vital NHS functions have ground to a standstill.
The 2016 changes introduced a tapered annual allowance that restricts the amount of pension growth for individuals earning more than £110,000p/a before tax charges apply. The allowance was reduced from £255,000 p/a in 2010-11 to £40,000, affecting around a third of doctors.
Faced with a situation where, in effect, they’re paying the NHS to work extra shifts, experienced doctors and nurses have radically cut back their hours. The massive impact of the new tax rules shows just how reliant the NHS is on its most experienced workers putting in huge amounts of overtime.
A dossier of evidence has been complied by the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) based on reports from 1,116 consultants across the UK. The report shows that, because of staff shortages, cancer scans are going unread for as long as six weeks, meaning that critical findings are going unreported.
Meanwhile, weekend surgery for some serious conditions that require specialist treatment has all but come to a halt. Patients who turn up in A&E in severe pain from a serious condition that causes bleeding on the brain have had to be admitted and given doses of strong painkillers because surgeons aren’t available to operate on them.
The dossier recorded that 71% of consultants said pension issues had directly affected patient care in their hospital. Half said the problem had forced them to stop doing overtime, while 26% had cut the amount of extra work they did. The bills have seen some doctors having to remortgage their homes, while others are preparing to leave the country for jobs in Australia, Canada and the Middle East.
Doctors have routinely picked up the slack in patient care caused by chronic underfunding and dwindling numbers entering the profession. Doctors must undertake some of the longest and most demanding training, which often sees junior doctors picking up the slack and making do with conditions that wouldn’t be tolerated in other professions. The long hours spent in highly pressured environments means that most doctors enter the profession because of a vocational desire to help people. It therefor seems unfair to land those who have stepped up to the mark with thousands of pounds of debt.
In a joint statement the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Treasury said that to help the situation immediately frontline staff would be allowed to opt out from the pension scheme for this financial year. The DHSC will also shortly publish a consultation document proposing “flexibilities” to the pension scheme to ensure that from the next financial year, experienced doctors and nurses staff can remain in it without fear of financial penalty.
Although medical bodies say that this is a step in the right direction, may feel that it doesn’t go far enough. President of the HCSA, Dr. Claudia Paoloni, stressed that doctors were simply reacting to the impossible situation they’ve been put in and were not to blame for the situation. With huge numbers of doctors suffering from burnout, it shouldn’t fall to these individuals to routinely make up for shortcomings in the system.
RoQ Recruitment is dedicated to working with the most talented individuals in the medical sector and helping them to achieve a good work-life balance. If you’re on the lookout for a new role then call us on: 0800 971 7070Tags: Doctors, NHS, Pensions, Tax