Pensions reform welcome, but there must be no further delay for the workforce plan

15 March 2023

Responding to announcements in the Spring Budget, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley said:

"We strongly welcome the chancellor's announcement on pensions reform and the scrapping of the lifetime allowance. This has been a longstanding concern for trusts and we have been urging the government to take decisive steps.

"For far too long, a series of temporary quick fixes has failed to stem the flow of senior NHS staff either taking early retirement or not taking on extra work for fear of punitive tax bills.

"Today's removal of the lifetime allowance will help keep highly valued, experienced senior NHS staff – who play a critical role in delivering and directing patient care as well as training and developing the next generation of the workforce – within the health service.

"The increase to the annual allowance threshold will also mean that far fewer senior NHS staff will be hit with large in-year tax bills.

"At a time when the government is seeking to get more people back into work, including those who are unable to do so because of health conditions and record care backlogs, the value of retaining highly skilled staff cannot be under-estimated.

"But as the service faces disruptive strike action due to widespread dissatisfaction with pay and conditions, record care backlogs and significant staff shortages, we know pensions reform is only one part of the puzzle.

"It was disappointing that the chancellor didn't announce further detail on the long awaited fully funded, long-term national workforce plan which the NHS so desperately needs.

"We will hold him to his word on publishing the plan shortly, in the expectation that it will be appropriately detailed, with staff numbers, costs and funding to match. There must be no more delays.

"This will be key to getting a grip of the severe workforce shortages and unsustainable workloads we see in the NHS alongside recruiting and retaining the staff we desperately need to meet ever-growing demand. And with junior doctors on strike today and consultants set to ballot for industrial action next month, the need for the government and trade unions to get around the table to thrash out a fully funded, agreed settlement to avert further, highly disruptive strike action has never been greater.

"A long-anticipated announcement on the New Hospitals Programme (NHP) was also sorely lacking.

"We know from the sheer number of applications from trusts to join the NHP and the staggering £10.75bn maintenance backlog across the NHS, that there is an undeniable need to provide trusts and systems with major funding for capital projects.

"It is vital that the government urgently makes decisions about the future of the NHP, the growing maintenance backlog and the need for funding to replace RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) planks."