Political parties are offering ‘too little too late’ in their manifestos over the pension tax crisis that has forced thousands of doctors to reduce their working hours, a senior BMA pensions expert has warned
This is an edited version of an article first published by GPonline.
The BMA has called proposals from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats ‘disappointing’ – warning that none of the three parties’ manifestos contain ‘detailed plans for reforming the disastrous pension taxation system that is currently preventing many doctors from working additional hours’.
In parts of England, nearly every GP has either reduced their working hours or plans to do so. A dossier compiled by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) earlier this year showed that some NHS services had been forced to close because pension tax concerns had left them unable to find enough doctors to keep their doors open.
BMA national clinical adviser on pay and pensions, consultant radiologist Dr Tony Goldstone, said on Twitter this week that there was currently ‘no greater threat to the NHS’ than the pension tax crisis.
Pension tax review
A comparison by the BMA of the three main parties’ pledges shows that the Conservatives have promised an ‘urgent review’ of the problem within 30 days if elected, to be carried out in consultation with the BMA and AoMRC.
Labour has also committed to a review to ensure that the workforce is fairly rewarded and that NHS services are not undermined, while the Liberal Democrats have promised to ‘listen and act’.
A BMA statement on the parties promises said: ‘A commitment to “review” is not new and not what is needed – we need urgent action from whoever forms the new government to scrap the damaging annual allowance and tapered annual allowance in defined benefit pension schemes to ensure that no doctor is penalised for going above and beyond for their patients.’
Dr Goldstone warned that the time for ‘reviews’ and ‘listening’ passed a long time ago – emphasising the BMA call for the punitive pension tax measures to be scrapped immediately.
Under a short-term fix unveiled last month, NHS England offered doctors in the NHS pension scheme facing charges due to breaching their annual pension allowance for 2019/20 a ‘contractually binding’ deal that would allow them to pay off the tax bills through the ‘scheme pays’ mechanism – on the basis that the NHS would ‘pay them a corresponding amount on retirement, ensuring that they are fully compensated in retirement for the effect of the 2019/20 scheme pays deduction’.
The BMA has called for cast-iron guarantees over the offer, and accountants have warned that ‘significant uncertainties’ remain over how it will work.