NHS trust waiting lists ‘rise because of pension changes’

8 Jul 19

NHS trust waiting lists are growing as pension changes have seen senior doctors turning down extra shifts, NHS chiefs have warned.

Senior doctors are rejecting extra shifts as they will be left with a large tax bill, which is in turn leaving gaps in surgery rotas, the trade association NHS Providers has said.

The changes introduced in 2016 mean that earners on more than £110,000 have been handed a new limit on pensions contributions before they are liable for tax.

As PF reported in April, this change has seen consultants reducing workloads, retiring early or rejecting leadership positions to avoid high tax on their pension savings.

But now NHS Providers has said that trusts are reporting surgery delays as a result of understaffing due to the pension changes. The BBC and Sky News have reported that one trust’s waiting lists have increased by 50% in the last three months from 3,000 to 4,500.

NHS Providers, which represents hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services, said this posed an “immediate, major, problem for the NHS”.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Trust leaders report that, over the last month, they have had significant numbers of key clinical and managerial staff saying they can no longer afford to work extra shifts and weekends because of the financial penalties involved in doing so, due to the way that the pension taxation rules currently work.

“We have multiple trusts telling us they are expecting a significant increase in the number of surgery cases they will have to delay, leaving patients in pain and risking their problems getting much worse.

“Trusts are also worried that these issues are one of the reasons for the current NHS performance problems in emergency care with April and May performance much worse than expected.”

Hopson pointed to a case in which a senior anaesthetist who worked 27 Saturdays last year said he can no longer afford to work Saturday shifts because his tax bill would be too large.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want to make NHS pensions more flexible for senior clinicians, in response to evidence that shows this issue is having an impact on retention. We will carefully consider all views on our proposals.”

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