Budget: Doctors welcome pension tax reform

Author: Mark Gould

Doctors and senior managers have welcomed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget proposals to tackle the pensions crisis which has affected consultants and other senior health professionals.

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said the chancellor’s decision to raise the two tapered annual allowance thresholds for pensions “will come as a huge relief to many doctors who were considering reducing their hours or retiring early due to the exorbitant taxes they faced”.

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson agreed: “It may not seem important, but the decision to tackle the pensions crisis affecting senior doctors is also a positive move – we have repeatedly called for action to address this because it was the cause of delayed and cancelled operations and clinics. In other words, patients were suffering.”

Mr Dickson said senior doctors were having to refuse to undertake extra work for fear of being hit with hefty or unexpected tax bills – even to the point where they could be worse off doing the extra work than doing nothing at all.

“The Budget announcement should hopefully make this a thing of the past for the vast majority of doctors by lifting the pensions annual allowance taper. We need to look at the details in full but we are pleased that the government has listened to our entreaties which were motivated by our determination to protect patient care.”

Meanwhile, health care commitments focused on frontline services, promising an extra £6bn for the NHS in England, to fund GP surgery appointments, fulfil the government’s election pledge to have 50,000 more nurses, and provide support for people with learning disabilities and autism.

But Dr Goddard echoed other experts who wanted to see much needed social care reform.

“The Budget is missed the opportunity to create a healthier and happier nation by giving social care and public health the urgent investment they need,” he said,

“Doctors are working incredibly hard under enormous pressure but their situation will not improve until the whole system – health, social care and public health - gets the funding it needs.

“The upcoming Spending Review and Autumn budget will allow this government to truly put patients first. It must grab that opportunity.”

Niall Dickson said that the extra £6bn investment in the NHS, as announced previously, is welcomed too “but the devil will be in the detail on how this will be allocated”.

He too was concerned at the silence over social care, “Our remaining big concern today is the worry that the government is kicking the can down the road for social care. We fervently hope the cross-party talks announced last week will bring results and we repeat our plea that the government must be prepared to deal with the crisis that is here and now, as well as tackling long-term reform.”

Royal College of General Practitioners president Professor Martin Marshall said that the £6bn needed to be invested in primary care.

"We know that half of GP premises are not fit for purpose so, in the longer term, the chancellor needs to invest in GP surgeries, supporting them to provide for the 6,000 additional GPs and 26,000 additional staff that the government has promised to ensure that patients can get appointments more quickly and that they receive the quality care they need and deserve.

“We look forward to the NHS People Plan being released in the near future, setting out how these ambitious recruitment targets will be met to ensure that our service has the workforce it needs now and in the future.”