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Pensions crisis: BMA, RCGP and others call on chancellor for solution

by Eleanor Philpotts
24 February 2020

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The BMA and RCGP have been joined by nine other medical bodies in urging the new chancellor to use the Budget to solve the pensions taxation crisis long-term.

The Government has already said it is looking into solving the crisis – which has seen GPs and consultants cutting shifts and taking early retirement – and it has said that it will pay the pensions tax bills for doctors this winter.

But in an open letter, the organisations stress that Rishi Sunak, who replaced Sajid Javid earlier this month, must provide a long-term solution that enables doctors to complete extra work without fearing incurring unexpected bills.

Emphasising the ‘workforce crisis’ that consumes the entire NHS, they specifically refer to ‘11 million patients experiencing unacceptable waiting times for GP appointments’; ‘rising waiting times for cancer and routine surgery’; and the worst A&E performances ‘since records began’. 

Dr Chaand Nagpaul and Professor Martin Marshall, BMA council chair and RCGP chair respectively, were among those the signatories, who said: ‘We are encouraged that the Government has committed to announcing a resolution to this issue in the Budget, but it must be the right one; one which will safeguard the NHS workforce for the long term.

‘We are past the point when significant action should have been taken.

‘It is essential that such a reform of pension taxation policies is implemented as soon as possible. This change is supported by the signatories of this letter and the tens of thousands of doctors our organisations represent.’

Other signatories include the Royal College of Physicians, UK Faculty of Public Health, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Mr Sunak, the son of a GP, is due to deliver his first Spring Budget on 11 March. 

In November, health secretary Matt Hancock exclusively disclosed to, Management in Practice’s sister publication, Pulse, that he was in discussions with the then-chancellor about removing the pensions tax taper. 

Last month, BMA pensions committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said the BMA had been informed by the Treasury that the review of doctors’ pensions had commenced. The trade union later confirmed its invitation to talks as part of the review.

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman also recently called for ‘decisive action’ on the issue, which was ignited when previous chancellor George Osborne lowered the thresholds at which people had to pay tax on their pensions contributions.