GPs reduce work over pension taxes that cost '£2 for every £1 earned'

Four in 10 primary care doctors have reduced their workload or considered doing so because of tax on pension contributions that have left some paying £2 for every £1 earned, a BMA Scotland poll reveals.

Pension taxes hit GP workforce (Photo: jax10289/Getty Images)
Pension taxes hit GP workforce (Photo: jax10289/Getty Images)

Nine out of 10 of more than 350 doctors who took part in the survey said that erosion of the medical workforce caused by punitive pension taxes would have a 'significant impact' on the NHS - potentially leading to the collapse of services.

BMA Scotland warned that the findings showed that 'punitive, unexpected pension tax bills' were putting the NHS at risk. The findings are the latest warning of the impact that pension taxes are having on the NHS workforce across the UK - GPonline reported earlier this year that one in three GPs had been forced to reduce their working hours or turn down extra shifts.

Doctors' leaders warned that clinicians were being forced to to 'cut their working hours and even take early retirement' because of the 'complex and punishing' way annual and lifetime tax allowances, along with the annual allowance taper interacted to create a 'tax trap' that could cost doctors tens of thousands of pounds.

Pension tax bills

Almost two thirds of (63%) of doctors who took part in the survey had 'received a large pension tax bill, or are actively expecting one', the survey found - while a further 21% feared they could soon receive a large bill.

More than half of doctors across the medical profession as a whole had already reduced their working hours, or were planning to - and one in four said pensions tax had left them considering early retirement.

Chair of BMA Scotland's GP committee Dr Andrew Buist said: 'These are extremely concerning findings that stretch right across the profession – and a large proportion of GPs who responded to the survey are clear they being forced to cut down the sessions they work as a result of pension tax charges.

'We all know the deep seated problems that exist around recruitment and retention of GPs and there can be no doubt this is making the position substantially worse. It is incredibly frustrating, that at a time when we need to focus entirely on implementing the new GP contract, issues like this should threaten to undermine the progress we are making.

Out-of-hours shifts

'For example, it is absolutely no surprise that GP out-of-hours services are struggling to cope and fill shifts, when GPs who volunteer may face being financially penalised as a result. These findings have to be a wakeup call to all politicians and prompt the urgent action we know is needed.'

BMA Scotland consultants committee chair Simon Barker said: 'It is hard to overstate the seriousness of this situation and its implications not just for consultants, but for NHS hospital services and our patients who rely on them.

'Doctors are very clearly telling us that they are being left with no option but to cut their working hours, in some cases because it’s actually costing them more money than they are earning.'

Doctors responding to the poll reported that they were 'paying to do the extra work' if they took on more shifts. One said they calculated that 'if I did more I would start to pay £2 for every £1 earned'.

Another said: 'It has done more to create despondency and a rush to retirement than any amount of work pressure.'

The government pledged earlier this year to implement a 'partial pension' option for NHS staff that will allow doctors to slow the growth of their pensions and push back the point at which they hit tax thresholds. But BMA leaders have warned that the move will not stop pension taxes undermining the workforce and that more radical steps will be required

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