Three quarters of GPs reducing work over pension tax, BMA poll reveals

Three quarters of GPs have reduced their working hours or plan to do so because of punitive tax charges on pensions, a BMA poll reveals.

More than two in five GPs (42%) have already reduced their working hours over pension tax charges that can leave doctors paying more than they earn for taking on extra work, the BMA poll shows. A further 34% plan to reduce their working hours.

Among hospital consultants, 30% have reduced their hours and a further 40% plan to do so. The BMA poll collected responses from more than 6,000 doctors across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 1,272 GPs.

BMA leaders warned earlier this year that pension tax charges would leave the NHS facing a 'massive loss of capacity' - and the poll findings reveal the scale of the workforce crisis is much as they predicted.

GP workforce

Evidence that thousands of GPs and hospital consultants have already cut back their working hours and that many thousands more plan to follow suit comes as the government consults on measures to prevent pension taxes draining away the medical workforce.

However, doctors' leaders have warned that a '50:50' pension option proposed by the government, which would allow NHS pension scheme members to halve the rate of growth of their pension pot by halving their contributions, does not go far enough to stop doctors being forced to reduce work or quit.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'These results show the extent to which GPs are being forced to reduce their hours or indeed leave the profession altogether because of pension taxes.

'With patient lists growing and the numbers of GPs falling, swift and decisive action is needed from the government to end this shambolic situation and to limit the damage that a punitive pensions taxation system is inflicting on doctors, their patients and across the NHS as a whole.'

Pension tax

BMA consultants committee chair Dr Rob Harwood said: 'We are now seeing, in the cold hard light of day, the impact that these appalling taxes are having on doctors. 

'The majority of consultants are contracted to work an average of 46 hours per week and we know that, in order to avoid tax bills of several thousands of pounds, many have given up, or want to give up, 10 hours a week.'

He said patients stood to lose 'several hundred thousand hours' of clinicians' time. Dr Harwood added: 'We are being put in an intolerable position because of these taxes and our patients are suffering because of it. The BMA has repeatedly warned the government that this would happen. These results show that we were right.'

The BMA poll reveals that in parts of England almost half of the GP workforce has already reduced working hours. In north-west England, 48% of GPs had cut back on work, while in north-east England and Yorkshire 47% of GPs had done so.

GPonline reported earlier this year that one in three GPs had cut back working hours or refused extra shifts because of concerns about pension tax.

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'We are determined to fix this issue to make it easier for our hardworking senior clinicians to balance their workload and pension pot. We are consulting on how we can make NHS pensions more flexible and we will listen to all views on our proposals.'

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