NHS staff voting with their feet over proposal to solve pensions problems

08 July 2019



NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson said:

"It has now become clear that the government's proposal to solve NHS pensions problems announced a month ago, whilst welcome, is insufficient. We were waiting to see if the proposal would work and it clearly hasn't. Staff are voting with their feet. 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.

"To quote two examples we've heard just this week. A senior anesthetist who worked 27 Saturdays last year to reduce waiting lists has now said he cannot afford to work any extra Saturday shifts this year because it would give him a large tax bill he cannot afford to pay. Another trust's medical director, a senior A&E consultant who routinely worked most Sundays last year, and was key to providing safe emergency care for that trust, is now unable to work any Sunday for similar reasons. In both cases, the trust's performance and the quality of patient care risks being compromised.

"This is now an immediate, major, problem for the NHS. Trust leaders are saying the impact is growing rapidly. 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.

"It's important to recognise that this isn’t just about top paid doctors. Current NHS pension problems affect a wide range of staff with many now looking to retire early, refuse promotion or reduce the amount of overtime they work because of the way the rules work.

"We welcome the government's recent, albeit belated, recognition of the scale of the problem and their willingness to explore solutions. But they must recognise that their initial answer hasn't worked and something more is needed really fast. We can't wait for a long drawn out consultation process on their initial proposal, which is the current plan." 



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