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Academy response: Doctors’ pensions tax issue

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is absolutely clear that the current problems around pension arrangements for doctors and other senior staff have turned into a medical staffing crisis for the NHS and are impacting on patient care.

Concrete examples of doctors reducing their hours, not taking on extra commitments or retiring early because of punitive tax arrangements are growing daily. It seems highly likely that this capacity will be lost on a permanent basis. Thus the benefits of increases in medical student numbers are being wiped out by the current loss of capacity.

Crucially, this reduction in available medical capacity is directly impacting on services and thus on patient care. It has become apparent that maintenance of service provision is reliant on consultants doing additional hours and that is increasingly becoming untenable financially. The Academy has already highlighted a series of instances where services to patients have been reduced in a letter to the Chancellor.

We acknowledge that Governments have recognised the problems being caused and have taken actions. The Government’s proposals for greater flexibility in the pension scheme have been welcome and should be utilised by doctors and others. The announcement today by NHS England for reimbursing  pension tax liabilities for 2019-20 from undertaking additional duties and the announcement by the Scottish Government earlier in the week for action in Scotland are very welcome and helpful.

Doctors do, of course, still need to get individual expert financial advice to ensure they take action best suited to their personal circumstances.

In addition these will only be a stop-gap solution as they are time limited until end of March 2020, and the Government needs to find a long term solution to the taxation issues that works on a UK wide basis. Without this action by the Treasury, NHS services will continue to be reduced, patients will wait longer and suffer harm.

During this election period we call on all political parties to pledge their support for full and urgent action by the next Government to swiftly and fully address the taxation problem in relation to NHS pensions to provide a sustainable solution.