TWO THIRDS of surgeons work less to avoid bills on their pensions
NHS winter crisis fears grow as poll reveals TWO THIRDS of surgeons have cut their hours to avoid being stung with hefty bills on their pensions
- Doctors’ leaders are worried about the ‘devastating’ impact on waiting times
- The Royal College of Surgeons carried out the survey on 1,890 of its members
- Some 68 per cent were considering early retirement due to the pensions taxes
- A further 69 per cent had reduced their NHS working hours, the survey found
Two thirds of surgeons have slashed their NHS hours as a result of hefty bills on their pensions, a poll reveals today.
Doctors’ leaders are worried about the ‘devastating’ impact on waiting times particularly when hospitals become busier over winter.
The survey by the Royal College of Surgeons found that 68 per cent of their members were considering early retirement due to the pensions taxes.
A further 69 per cent had reduced their NHS working hours and 64 per cent have been advised to do so, either by accountants or other doctors.
Doctors’ leaders are worried about the ‘devastating’ impact on waiting times particularly when hospitals become busier over winter
One trauma and orthopaedic surgeon admitted his waiting list had gone from five months to nine months ‘overnight’ after he cut back on his hours.
Ministers promised to reform the flawed pensions scheme in August and a three-month consultation on more flexible rules will finish next month.
Under the existing system – introduced by former Chancellor George Osborne – anyone on more than £110,000 a year faces being hit by punitive tax bills.
GPs and surgeons earning six-figure salaries are amongst the hardest hit and many have cut down on their hours to reduce the payments.
In fact many surgeons have stopped working overtime to clear waiting lists, which are currently at their highest on record.
Figures two weeks ago revealed that 4.4million patients were waiting for an NHS operation including 662,000 who had been waiting for at least 18 weeks.
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said: ‘As our survey findings emphasise, the impact of pension tax rule changes on waiting times for surgery are devastating.
‘Surgeons who have previously done many hours of extra work to help reduce waits, are cutting back their hours. Many are considering early retirement.
‘Patients already face overly long waits for operations. Persisting with a tax system that punishes clinicians for taking on extra work, will undoubtedly lead to a further deterioration in waiting times.’
The Royal College of Surgeons surveyed 1,890 of its members although the organisation represents a total of 25,000 surgeons in England and worldwide.
One 42-year old trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, who performs procedures such as hip and knee replacements said: ‘This is not a story about pensions, it is a story about how long patients will have to wait for surgery.
‘My waiting list went from five months to nine months overnight. It is the biggest threat to the NHS at present.’
Another respondent said: ‘It is very sad to see senior consultant colleagues retiring very early from the NHS and junior consultants, including myself, reducing their NHS work significantly.
‘Unfortunately, those who will suffer are the patients that rely on the NHS for their treatment.’
The rules were imposed by George Osborne in April 2016 and anyone earning more than £110,000 a year will be hit by a tax charge if they put more than £10,000 into their pension pot annually.
Previously, they could pay up to £40,000 into their pension pot a year tax-free.
Miss Stella Vig, a clinical director at Croydon University Hospital in South London and council member of the Royal College of Surgeons said: ‘The NHS pensions scheme has created a ‘tax trap’, where accepting an extra shift can lead to a large and entirely unpredictable tax bill landing in the post many months later.’
Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: ‘We simply cannot wait until the next tax year for a solution, every week the issue remains more hard-working doctors will reduce their hours, driving up waiting times for patients and driving down staff morale.’
WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE NHS PENSION SCHEME? AND HOW ARE THEY AFFECTING STAFF?
The NHS introduced changes to its pension plan in 2016.
This means senior staff are now more likely to suffer an annual tax charge on their pension contributions, as well as a lifetime allowance charge on their overall pension pot.
Pension contributions are not taxed so long as they do not exceed annual or lifetime allowances.
People of all professions usually pay tax on their pension if the total contributions for that year exceed the annual allowance (AA), which is currently £40,000 ($49,793).
And if the pension pot is worth more than the lifetime allowance, which is currently £1,055,000 ($1,315,310), a person will also pay tax on it.
Although the AA has been £40,000 since 2014, it can go to as low as £10,000 ($12,447) if a person is subject to tapering.
In the NHS pension scheme, the amount a person puts in each year is multiplied by a factor of 16-to-19. Therefore small increases in pensionable pay can generate very large growth.
Tapering occurs when the taxable income exceeds £110,000 ($137,142).
If the income is more £110,000, a person needs to calculate their adjusted income.
If this is more than £150,000 ($187,026), the AA tapers by £1 ($1.24) for every £2 ($2.48) that their adjusted income is above £150,000.
In the case of a consultant with a pension growth of £100,000 ($124,673) but a threshold income of £110,000, they retain a standard AA.
But even as little as £1 of additional income would result in AA reducing to the minimum of £10,000.
This £1 of extra income could increase the tax payable by £13,500 ($16,811).
Many consultants only realised this years later. The BMA predicts 30 per cent of the medics have been affected.
Opting to earn less causes a medic’s pension pot to grow more slowly, which reduces their risk of being hit with a tax bill.
Full-time doctors are typically contracted to work 10 shifts, each lasting four-to-five hours, a week.
However, consultants usually go above and beyond this by working 11 or 12 shifts to keep up with demand.
They get paid overtime for this additional work, which can then affect their pension.
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