The British Medical Association’s chairman has today written to the Prime Minister warning her that the NHS is on the cusp of a major workforce crisis.
In his letter on behalf of the BMA, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair, warned the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, that the government’s policy over pensions is driving doctors out of the workforce. He further warned that an exodus of doctors will result in patient care suffering.
Dr Nagpaul wrote: “The BMA has been working tirelessly to alert HM Treasury and wider Government to the reality of losing large swathes of expertise from the NHS’s most experienced doctors at a time when the over-stretched service needs it most. Without the good will of doctors to cover waiting lists and gaps in rotas as well as extra sessions in GP surgeries, patients will suffer.”
He added: “The power to resolve this situation ultimately lies with the Treasury and frankly it has taken too long for the problem to be properly acknowledged. We note the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s recent announcement of a consultation on flexibility for the NHS Pension scheme but as he already knows, the BMA remains convinced the 50:50 proposal will not solve the problem. This option will not only result in doctors receiving a lower pension, but it also does not remove the perverse incentive for doctors to reduce the work they do for the NHS. This is particularly the case if there is no recycling of employers’ pension contributions back to the employees.
“This problem is also impacting our Defence Medical Services, where unless a resolution is found it will lead to severe shortages and put at risk the ability to deploy.”
The BMA has asked for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to discuss some short-term options, but the Association remains convinced that the true solution lies in pension taxation reform.
The letter to the Prime Minister acknowledges she is in her final days in office but asks her to support the BMA by calling on the Chancellor to meet with the Association soon and agree a definitive solution.
According to the BMA, doctors are already reducing their hours and not providing cover at weekends.
“The Association believes the annual and tapered annual allowances are unnecessary in defined benefit schemes such as the NHS as members are unable to control their pension growth and tax relief is already limited through tiered contribution rates and the lifetime allowance. These limits must be scrapped if high quality, safe patient care is to be delivered in the future,” said a BMA spokesperson.
A government spokesperson told OnMedica: "We are consulting on proposals to offer senior clinicians a new pensions option, empowering them to build their NHS pension more gradually over their career by making steadier contributions towards their pension, without facing regular significant tax charges. We will listen carefully to the profession during consultation to reach a final proposition that works for both staff and taxpayers. The consultation gives an opportunity for groups and individuals to put forward their views."