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Plans to pay doctors’ pension tax bills

Attempts to ease staff shortage this winter

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The NHS could be about to pay doctors' pension tax bills to avoid unfilled shifts this winter, it has been suggested.

There have been reports this week in the media that NHS England is to cover doctors’ tax bills to address the problem created by changes to pension taxation.

The pensions tax allowance taper, which reduces the tax-free annual allowance the more an individual earns, has meant that senior doctors including GPs have found they were facing extra bills by working extra shifts.

Consequently, doctors have been turning down requests to do extra shifts and the British Medical Association (BMA) has been pressing for a solution to the problem.

Reports by The Times newspaper and BBC News this week said that NHS England was set to approve an approach under which tax bills would be taken out of doctors’ pension pots, but the NHS would commit to pay this money back when staff retired to ensure they were no worse off.

It is understood that this is a temporary measure that will only apply for the 2019-20 tax year.

The BMA welcomed the move and its council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The BMA has been in active discussion with NHS England about what short-term options, including this interim measure, could be implemented to allow doctors to resume additional work over the coming winter period.

“These proposals under discussion could, if properly implemented, provide the respite needed to enable significant numbers of doctors to increase the work they are doing, giving vital patient care at a time of unprecedented demand.

“However, we don’t yet have important details about how the such a scheme will work; details that are crucial to the BMA and to the tens of thousands of doctors that we represent in order to provide the necessary reassurance that doctors can take on additional work without this resulting in any financial penalty.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said: “This is good news for patients as we head into what is expected to be a very challenging winter for the NHS.

“We support NHS England’s plan to make sure that senior clinical staff are not penalised for undertaking extra work. This is obviously a stop gap measure but if it helps relieve pressures on front line services this winter and makes sure patients are treated then all to the good.

“This arrangement provides some immediate and welcome certainty, but as soon as the election is over we need the incoming government to prioritise delivering a long-term solution ahead of the start of the next financial year in April.

“We have already proposed that extra work carried out by consultants be excluded from the tapered annual allowance calculation, but we also want to see an eventual change in the tax laws which have produced these perverse consequences for front-line staff providing vital care for patients.”

OnMedica.com approached NHS England for a comment but received no response.  

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