DOCTORS have welcomed a series of concessions by the Treasury, altering the effect on them of punitive pension rules which are in fact forcing many to retire early or ratchet down work hours.
In his initial response Chaand Nagpaul, the council chair of doctors’ union the BMA, (British Medical Association), has welcomed the concessions on the BMA’s behalf, but has also warned specifically that ‘wider reform is needed’.
‘The concessions were announced … by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and the Treasury following sustained pressure from the BMA and calls by employer bodies to tackle the issue urgently,’ the BMA’s statement said.
‘The DH has conceded pension rules for senior clinicians will be ‘‘changed to allow them to take on extra shifts without losing out financially’’.
‘A recent BMA survey of more than 6,000 doctors found 30 per cent of consultants and 42 per cent of GPs surveyed have already reduced their hours. Forty per cent of consultants and 34 per cent of GPs also plan to do so.
‘Under the concessions, the government will soon launch a new consultation on ‘‘full pension flexibility’’.
‘An earlier one had proposed the so-called ‘‘50:50 model’’ – an approach which would have failed to fix the problem, according to the association’s analysis.
‘The new consultation will examine the effect of the ‘‘annual allowance taper’’, which has resulted in a growing number of doctors regularly receiving sudden and unexpected tax bills, that can be of four, five and in some cases six figures.
‘New rules to be introduced next year will allow clinical staff, including nursing colleagues, to scale down how much they pay into their pension pots without losing out on their employers’ contributions.
‘The Treasury claims this will let them take on extra work without losing out financially.’
Nagpaul has welcomed the concessions and suggested ‘consultation’ as a ‘step forward’, but is insisting nonetheless that ‘wider reform is needed for a solution for all doctors.
‘After a year’s tireless lobbying by the BMA on the damaging effect that perverse and ill-thought-out tax legislation is having on our NHS, its doctors and patients, it is good to see the government finally sitting up, taking notice and proposing action,’ he added.
‘The new proposed flexibilities will provide short-term relief for many doctors, but they themselves do not tackle the core and underlying problem. (Our emphasis – News Line)
‘This lies in tax reform and, as we have said before, it is the overhaul of the annual allowance and tapered annual allowance that will make a difference to all doctors, including consultants, GPs and medics in the armed forces.
‘Chancellor Sajid Javid said the Government was ‘‘committed to ensuring that British people see a real difference in public services, including getting quicker GP appointments and a reduction in waiting times’’.
‘Critical to that is introducing flexibility into the system so that our hospitals have the staff they need to deliver high-quality patient care, which is why we’ve listened to concerns and will be reviewing the operation of the tapered annual allowance.
‘This will help to support the delivery of our vital public services,’ Nagpaul added.
Even Tory health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has admitted: ‘NHS doctors do extraordinary, life-saving work every day, and they should not have to worry about the tax impacts if they choose to go the extra mile by taking on additional work to help patients.’
However the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, has credited the new (Johnson) government with having introduced what Hopson calls ‘a welcome pace and focus to this issue that was previously lacking.’
Shortly afterwards, by contrast, the BMA issued a press release (on Thursday August 8th) which stressed: Responding to the latest NHS performance figures which reveal that waiting lists for treatment referrals are at the highest level on record and there is a sharp rise in operation cancellations and 12-hour trolley waits comparative to last year, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Rob Harwood, said:
‘Today’s figures show the continuing rapid deterioration of performance levels within the health service, as despite being the middle of summer, the NHS is experiencing pressures reminiscent of the worst winters.
‘The situation for patients is extremely concerning with over 4.5 million people waiting for treatment – the highest figure on record – and 12-hour trolley waits tripling compared to this time last year.
‘With 20,000 cancelled operations in the last quarter – up by six per cent in the same period last year – June waiting times for cancer treatment and referrals the worst since records began, and July being the busiest month for A&E attendances ever recorded, the NHS is in desperate need of a lifeline.
‘The new government must realise that behind these figures are patients who are suffering because they do not have timely access to care and staff who are being pushed to their limits, to the detriment of an effectively functioning health service.
‘The recently announced spending for the NHS is welcome, if that indeed represents new investment, but frankly these figures suggest that much more is needed if the performance of the NHS is to be restored.
‘It is also vital that the government resolves the pensions crisis that is stopping experienced doctors from working on behalf of patients as extensively as they normally do, both quickly and effectively, or it will further undermine the performance of the NHS.’
Also in response to the latest NHS performance statistics, Dame Donna Kinnair, CE and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing has said:
‘While economists argue over how much of the NHS funding announced by PM this week is new money, today’s figures show the reality patients and staff are facing every day in our hospitals.
‘Last month almost 60,000 of the very sickest patients had to wait more than four hours for a hospital bed after a decision was made to admit them as an emergency, a third more than this time last year.
‘And over 400 had to wait more than 12 hours on trolleys and chairs, a delay that is never supposed to happen in the NHS.
‘Nursing staff performed heroics when last month’s heatwave meant that extra patients came to hospital with dehydration and respiratory problems – cash for new buildings is always welcome – but the NHS desperately needs more staff to cope with these peaks in demand.’