NHS waiting lists rise 'pension rules which mean doctors can not work'

10 Juillet, 2019, 16:05 | Auteur: Yves Courtet

Hospitals are having to cancel operations and cancer scans are going unread for weeks because consultant doctors have suddenly begun working to rule in a standoff over NHS pensions.

The issue arose after regulations introduced in 2016 limited the sums that could be paid into public sector pension pots by high earners without losing tax relief.

The BMA has said that it will continue to lobby the government to make changes to the NHS pension tax rules.

The changes meant older members could stay in the existing pension scheme, but younger members had to transfer to a new scheme, which they felt was financially detrimental to them.

A senior anaesthetist at one hospital worked 27 Saturdays previous year to reduce waiting times but now can not afford to, the organisation said.

One hospital has seen numbers waiting for routine surgery increase by 50% since April, with staffing issues due to the pensions problem partly to blame. "The "tapered" annual allowance needs to be abolished and replaced with a simpler across-the-board limit on pension contributions".

"But they must recognise that their initial answer hasn't worked and something more is needed really fast".

The Guardian reported the situation arose because the hospital's anaesthetists feared that by working above their usual hours, they would end up financially worse off - a situation it said was being replicated in other parts of the country.

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But now they are asking, what's the point?

This follows Health Secretary Matt Hancock's proposal that doctors cut their pension contributions by 50% in exchange for receiving only half the benefits.

NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said senior staff were now saying they could not afford to work at weekends to bring waiting lists down. Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA's chair of council, said the current policy was "driving doctors out of the workforce", and the BMA had alerted the government to the reality of "losing large swatches of expertise" from the NHS.

"Trust leaders report that, over the last month, they have had significant numbers of key clinical and managerial staff saying they can no longer afford to work extra shifts and weekends because of the financial penalties involved in doing so, due to the way that the pension taxation rules now work".

"We have multiple trusts telling us they are expecting a significant increase in the number of surgery cases they will have to delay, leaving patients in pain and risking their problems getting much worse".

The anecdotal evidence is supported by recent data, though figures for June are not yet available.

Data for April showed that the number of patients waiting more than the target 18 weeks for an operation increased 3% on the previous month, and 16% on the same month past year to 579,403, the largest number ever recorded.

'We will carefully consider all views on our proposals'.


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