At a time when the NHS is faced with growing staff shortages, senior and highly experienced GPs and hospital doctors in the north east are cutting back on their work or leaving the profession entirely; partly because of stress and an ever-increasing workload, but also because of damaging tax and pension regulations, which severely penalise them for working longer hours.
The current lifetime and annual allowance pension limits are resulting in large and often unexpected financial burdens for the most senior and experienced of doctors, and the problems are made worse if they do more hours, to try to reduce patient waiting lists for example.
The knock-on effect on patient care in the north east and the impact on the junior doctors, whom they help train to be our consultants of the future, cannot be underestimated.
Recent BMA research shows that six out of ten consultants intend to retire before or at the age of 60, with only 6.5 per cent of consultants expecting to remain working after the age of 65, citing the pension regulations as a key driver for this decision.
A situation where the government talks about increasing productivity in secondary care while allowing extreme financial pressure on its most experienced doctors to force them to do less work and, in some cases, to leave the NHS when they do not want to, is clearly untenable.
The BMA Consultants Committee has written to both the Chancellor and the Health Minister highlighting the serious implications for the NHS and calling for the removal of the annual and lifetime allowance cap for public sector workers.
We also called for the introduction of a national policy for trusts to begin recycling employer pension contributions to members who have already left the scheme entirely to offset the powerful disincentives that are forcing consultants to reduce and stop work.
Dr Sunil Nodiyal
Chairman of the Northern BMA Regional Consultants Committee Council